Fishing for Talent

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While reporting for this month’s feature on two promising young shop operators (“Carrying the Future”), I asked them what the auto service industry needed to do to lure more youth to its ranks.

Their answers weren’t surprising.

Rachael Lewis, vice president and soon-to-be owner of City Auto Repair in Gainesville, Fla., said bluntly that the industry needs to recreate itself. The 27-year-old said shops need to dispel stereotypes of untrustworthy service and grimy appearances; of low-skill labor and little opportunity.

Lewis traveled a different career path until her father helped her realize a passion for customer service that made her an excellent fit in the shop. She has since overhauled the shop’s image and implemented numerous customer-oriented improvements. She said the industry also needs to emphasize technology and the high skill needed to work on today’s modern vehicles, to peak interest among today’s tech-savvy youth.

Richard Weis, owner of J&R Services in Crossville, Tenn., said he wished he had learned of the financial opportunities available in auto service when he was in high school. Weis, now 29, started out as a tool and die tech before realizing there was more money to be made in running a shop. He now serves on the advisory board of his local technical school to help guide curriculum and educate students about the industry’s needs and opportunities. 

Lewis and Weis are among many young professionals looking for a chance to succeed. The next generation of technicians and eventual shop operators is out there, they just need the right message.

Jake Weyer

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