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CARS Panelists Discuss Tactics for Finding, Retaining Techs

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LAS VEGAS, Nov. 3, 2017—Attracting and retaining young technicians is a well-known issue in the automotive aftermarket, but many shop owners don’t know the best ways to approach finding a viable solution. Bill Haas, Donny Seyfer and a wide variety of industry experts were on hand for CARS@AAPEX 2017 to provide useful techniques and resources to combat this major challenge.

According to one graph in the “Grow Your Own Technicians” session, 39 percent of technicians in 2016 were 55 or older, while only 13 percent of technicians were in the 18–34 age range. Much of the session centered on how to recruit millennials and current students in an effort to decrease the age gap.

One of the key takeaways in reaching the younger generation is that technicians and shop owners need to get involved with organizations like NATEF and NASTF, as well as local college and school boards.

John Eppstein of San Diego–based John’s Automotive Care sits on a foundation board at a local college. He said this is getting involved with the community and talking to students is vital in directing people to the aftermarket.

Chris Chesney of Advance Auto Parts reiterated the need to compete with other industries and get in front of students with school boards.

“All the other professions are represented at these, but we’re not there,” Chesney said.

Jeff Lovell of ASA Northwest stressed the importance of building and maintaining a strong apprenticeship program, which can attract applicants through local colleges. He said that if you treat an apprentice right and maintain a strong work environment, it creates loyalty.

Though many schools have eliminated shop and woodworking classes that teach students technical skills, some schools around the country are taking action. Teachers like Chuck Sprague at Wheat Ridge High School have developed science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM programs, to teach kids valuable technical resources.

Sprague program started at Wheat Ridge High School in 2014 with 16 students in a range from valedictorians and at-risk students. The students worked side by side to build vehicles for major competitions around the country.

Sprague and eight of his students were on hand at the event to discuss the project, and their recent win at the Shell Eco-marathon.

“I saw there were no shop or woodworking classes, so I immediately grabbed at the first thing I could see, which was this class,” said one of the students on the panel.

The students plan to join careers in engineering, biology and even nursing, but they said the program has taught them a lot about hands-on technical work.

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