Conant Automotive Sponsors Tech Students to Combat Job Shortage

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August 23, 2019—Because of the shortage of qualified technicians in the industry, auto repair shops are having to find more ways to get millennials and Gen Zs involved in the automotive industry.

Milwaukee Area Technical College officials said automotive technology enrollment has been steady in the last five years, but there’s still a desperate need for skilled workers in the workforce. Joe Conant, owner of Conant Automotive in Stoughton, Wisc., has been aware of the issue for some time now.

“Trying to find technicians has been an uphill battle since I started my business,” says Conant. “The well has run dry with technicians—they aren’t out there.” 

Conant says the job shortage has made him change his business plan altogether. Currently, the shop has seven bays and four full-time technicians, a service writer, and two of apprenticeship techs that he sponsors. He says if there wasn’t a shortage of techs, he’d probably have a 15-bay shop and cranking out $2.5 million in revenue, compared to $2 million he’s at right now.

To help alleviate the job shortage, the Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealers Association approached Conant about getting involved in a sponsorship program to help students pay for their tuition. Through the program, the student, the association and the auto repair shop split the student’s tuition three ways.

The student works in the auto repair shop that sponsors them while they are in high school and college. And when the student goes off to technical school, that’s when the association kicks in to help subsidize the tuition.

Currently, he sponsors two students from Madison Area Technical College (MATC).

“It’s a very neat deal for us, the student, and the school,” says Conant. “I’m growing my staff by investing in them.”

And when the student graduates, Conant expects the new graduates to put in at least three years of their work in his shop.

Conant says If auto repair shop owners don’t start thinking outside of the box and just rely on these websites that will help you find employees, they will get nowhere. The auto repair shop even helps out the local Boy Scouts to get their automotive merit badges and tries to get them interested in the field.

“We have to train them and we have to grow them—it’d be foolish not to,” he says.

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