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On June 20, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) hosted a webinar called “The Road to Great Technicians” with Chris Chesney, senior director of customer training for the CARQUEST Technical Institute.
Written by Chasidy Rae Sisk
* Attendees qualified for one credit from the Automotive Management Institute.
After ASA Vice President Tony Molla introduced the webinar’s presenter, Chesney recounted his collaboration with the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) to identify the Road to Great Technicians. They began in March 2016 when NASTF’s Spring General Meeting focused on the topic of building a road to great technicians.
Chesney was asked to explain the current state of the aftermarket training industry. He defined the current state of aftermarket training as a lack of industry standards and a structured career path, unorganized training offerings, and disjointed efforts by industry organizations. However, he also identified many good building elements.
Current problems in the industry include the inability to find new talent, graduates not performing to industry standards, an inability to afford techs and the amount of time is takes to replace a technician or advisor who leaves a company because companies do not build bench strength.
Chesney stressed, “You have to invest in those new technicians, but many shops cannot find someone who can perform out of the gate, so we need to focus on growing our own and building our bench strength to overcome this problem. We have a need now for the next several years. Reports indicate that we need 80,000 technicians each year, but only 25,000 are being produced.”
Chesney identified the aging workforce, oncoming tidal wave of technology and lack of a structured career path as reasons for the significant needs for technicians. Focusing on the influx of technology, he explored the unseemly amount of data that is transferred within modern vehicles.
“It’s not the problem of education,” he said. “It’s our problem, and we’re going to look into that.”
Chesney presented a picture of the Technician Life Cycle, which included the following seven steps: secondary shadowing, post-secondary intern, entry-level apprentice, technician, senior technician, master technician and specialist; however, he noted that this does not include possible “off ramps” on the Road to Great Technicians.
Occurring after an industry professional becomes an entry-level technician, these “off ramps” include in-service continuing education and higher education, which can offer technicians a variety of paths to pursue in their careers, ranging from master technician to shop foreman to shop owner or even becoming an engineer for an OEM.
In a January 2018 meeting, the education team at NASTF identified a subcommittee of industry experts tasked with creating a framework of education around the life cycle of a technician and other job roles within the industry. This framework is intended for curriculum providers to use in order to offer a career pathway that means something to the industry and is transferrable throughout the industry. The group began with the vision that they would prescribe degrees of competencies at every skill level, focused on the safety and reliability of the ground vehicle fleet.
This Road to Great Technicians team consists of NASTF Chair Mark Saxonberg, Toyota’s Jill Saunders, WTI’s Rob Morrell, CTI’s Chris Chesney, NACAT’s Bill Haas, of Diag.net’s Scott Brown, WTI’s Mark Warren, NASTF’s Donny Seyfer, ASE’s Trish Serratore, S/P2’s Kyle Holt, DrewTech’s Bob Augustineand Cengage’s Erin Brennan.
Exploring possible solutions to the industry’s problem, this group defined 13 solution elements, starting with new and enhanced communication with parents and influencers of peripheral students, early engagement with tactile students in middle and high school, support of STEM and development of a well-articulated career path with clear opportunities for advancement and growth that students and parents can see.
The industry also needs to get involved with vocational education content to ensure these programs provide the right skills to students.
Chesney explained, “They’re producing the wrong technicians because we aren’t involved. We have to be involved. We need to design a curriculum for schools and employers to ensure that, regardless of where technicians work, they are uniformly trained for the skill level. We have to provide people with the opportunity to grow throughout their careers.”
The team also believes that the industry needs to provide internship experience, develop programs to help in-service technicians become mentors, and ensure that testing and certification programs are uniform and tiered to provide milestones for achievement. Employers also must find ways to provide wages and benefits that are competitive with other industries attracting the same individuals.
“As technicians progress through their career, it is imperative to communicate career options to ensure they don’t leave the industry,” Chesney elaborated. “Vehicle technology has accelerated to unprecedented levels, necessitating faster and more thorough technician skill development to ensure public safety. To add further credibility and value to the process, NASTF is encouraging practical examinations similar to other safety-related skills as a means to verify requisite skill level attainment. Currently, this is not regulated and we cannot keep up with the advancing rates of technology, but we need a way to prove our skills and be prepared for what’s coming, not merely what is on the road right now.”
The current state of industry education is outcome-based and not sufficient to serve today’s technology. The future of education must be competency-based with a focus on mastery of skill and validation of a technician’s mastery and development of skills that are recognized and transferable. A competency-based education offers a variable class structure and the ability to test out of the subject matter at different levels, enabling students to finish as they are able.
The Road to Great Technicians team defined a new NASTF Technician Life Cycle that includes seven steps: apprentice technician, maintenance technician, service technician, repair technician, diagnostic technician, master technician, and specialist technician.
According to Chesney, “Each step would require a variety of requirements as far as training and experience. They would also require mastery of competencies using curriculum provided by the industry, to include mentoring, demonstrated skills and self-paced curriculum. Finally, technicians seeking to advance would prove their skills through oral and hands-on exams.”
Continuing the work they have started, the team plans to provide the industry with a white paper by the end of the year, but they encourage the industry to comment and opine. While the team will be limited in size in order to maximize effectiveness, they encourage industry professionals to join NASTF and the NASTF Education Team.
The group’s vision for the future of automotive education culminates in the idea of the Automotive Institute of Science and Technology, which would include a pathway education in a project-based environment. In ninth and 10th grades, students would sample each pathway through projects designed to highlight the different aspects and career fields before choosing a specific pathway in 11th grade to focus on in their final two years of high school. Their choices would be automotive technology as a trade, business, or engineering. While obtaining their associates degree, students would enter the discipline of their choice, working in shops to gain practical experience while simultaneously acting as mentors to younger students. Chesney concluded the webinar with a question and answer session.
Article Source: https://www.autobodynews.com/index.php/component/k2/item/15820-asa-hosts-road-to-great-technicians-webinar-with-carquest-s-chris-chesney.html
By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, our focus is on business, for the most part. There is nothing wrong with this mindset, but it may push employees away from you. Whether you like it or not, people are more concerned about their own lives and what’s important to them.
When speaking to your employees, find ways to engage in conversation that has nothing to do with business. Find out about their interests, and what’s going on in their lives. Simply asking, “How was your weekend? Do anything special?” can work wonders to motivate people.
When speaking with employees, be more concerned about them, not you. This will send a message that you care about them as a person. In turn, they will care more about your business.
By 5 Star Auto Spa
So we are a shop that pays our technicians hourly. We have an incentive built into the pay that rewards technicians a percentage based on performing detailed vehicle inspections that are sold but the bulk of the pay comes from a straight hourly wage. Because we pay our technicians hourly, the expectations we have of our technicians are different then say a dealership or independent repair shop that pays flat rate. When there are no vehicles to service, because our technicians are paid hourly, we expect them to stay busy. We have an extensive To Do List that we have our technicians perform during down time which consists of cleaning and maintenance tasks around the shop. The technicians are expected to come into the front office area and sign off of the To Do List as they complete each task. This helps the CSA know what the technicians are doing at what time. We have noticed that most of our new technicians that end up leaving seem to have great difficulty or dislike to adhere to this policy. I almost think they feel as though they are being micro-managed and they should be able to self direct themselves. The problem with not having a specific set of tasks for a technician during down time is that beyond just sweeping and moping, nothing of significance gets accomplished during the down time.
Are there any other shops that pay hourly/salary and if so, how do you deal with down time? I'm not sure if we just have to change our pay to flat rate with a guaranteed minimum base.......
By Joe Marconi
Too many shop owners go into hire-crisis mode when they lose an employee. With no real plan, you ask everyone you know, put ads out, and research online sources. But all too often, you end up hiring the wrong person. Why? Desperation. You need to fill a position with someone.
Hiring is perhaps one of the most important aspects of running a business. You need to hire right, and that means taking your time, interview as many candidates as possible and look for reasons not to hire as much as reasons to hire someone.
You also need a plan before you lose an employee. You need to adopt the strategy of recruiting. Constantly look for the top talent in your area and build your pipeline. Connect with this top talent and create a contact list. Maintain a relationship.
With this strategy, when the time comes when you lose an employee, you will be in a better position to fill that spot with the right person.
By 5 Star Auto Spa
Just trying to get a feel for what types of benefits you all are offering for your technicians. Do you all offer the following:
Health Benefits - If yes, 100% paid or 50% paid?
Vacation Time - If yes, how many days/hours per year?
Personal Days - If yes, how many days/hours per year?
Use of shop for personal vehicle repairs?
401K w/ Company Match?
Any other benefits?
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By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, we sometimes feel that we need to answer every question and handle every situation. While you need to be proficient as a business owner, you also need your employees to think for themselves.
Empower your people to solve problem. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be too quick to jump in on every situation. The more you jump in and solve their problems, the more they will rely on you. This is not to say you don’t have their back; but a team functions best when everyone takes ownership of their position and takes responsibility to take care of problems.
Will employees make mistakes? Yes. But there isn’t a shop owner on this planet that has a perfect record at making decisions. We all make mistakes.
As a shop owner; teach, mentor and coach. Include your employees in on decisions that relate to their job position. When employees feel you trust them, they will begin to solve their own problems. This will set you free to work on the things that will bring you greater success.
By Joe Marconi
A few weeks back I had a problem with my refrigerator. I got a referral and called an appliance repair company. I called three times and each time I called this is what happened: "C and E appliance, please hold." I was put on hold three times for about 5 minutes. After being put on hold each time, a women would say, "What's the problem?" No engagement, no sign of interest for me the customer, no signs of caring. I gave the women a brief description of the problem and each time she told me someone would call me back. Well, no one did.
So, I called for the 4th time, and as the person answered the phone I said, "DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD." There was silence, so I continued. I explained to her that she has spoken to me three times, I left messages three times and three times you told me that someone would call me back. She replied, "You are talking to the wrong person, if you have any complaints, write a letter to my boss, after all he won't listen to me anyway." I hung up the phone and called another company.
The lesson and takeaway here is simple: Who's answering your phone? The wrong people on the phone in your shop can kill your business. Have meetings with your people. Make sure you review your phone skills policy. If you don't have one, create one. Empower your people to people to handle issues. And make sure you log every phone call. If you feel you have a problem, start recording phone calls.
Your phone is your lifeline to future business. So, please ask yourself....Who's answering your phone?
By Joe Marconi
Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels.
I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?
By Joe Marconi
Each year at this time I advise shop owners to set aside time to look back at the current year and start planning for the year ahead. The more due diligence you perform, the more successful you will be. Below is a short list of things you need to do. Remember, the time you spend now, will pay off next year.
Review all your numbers, year to date - Did you hit your goals? Arrange a meeting with your accountant and review your projected sales and determine any tax implications Speak to your accountant about investing in any end-of-year equipment purchases or any other large purchases in order to save on taxes. Please do not listen to your tool truck guy or equipment reps. Sometimes having cash reserve is much more important that reducing taxes Have a meeting with your key employees; determine what you will need in the coming year and begin to create a budget Set your new goals for 2018 and beyond, both personal and business Create a Wish List, those things your would like to accomplish, both in business and personal - This will help keep you focused Consider needed future training for all employees Review all insurances: Life insurance, liability, etc. Perform a facility inspection: Identify any needed work, upgrades, OSHA concerns, etc Create an emergency crisis plan in case something happens to you or a key employee; and make sure your loved ones and family have a copy of the plan
By Joe Marconi
The day to day operations of running a business can take its toll on anyone. To be a business owner means to address problem after problem and finding the right solutions. Sometimes the decisions we make will be the right ones, sometimes not. If we are not careful, this emotional roller coaster we call being in business, can make us focus too much on the negative, and not the positive things that happen in our lives.
With nearly 4 decades as a business owner, I can say with certainty that one of the basic building blocks of being successful in business is having the right team of people around you and getting yourself in the right frame of mind.
You need to find and hire great people. But once you have them, you need to do all you can to take care of them, train them and make them successful in order for you to be successful. Is it easy? No. But it is essential.
Most important; you need to treat each day as if it were a gift from the heavens and base your entire perspective from a position of strength and remaining positive. I know it’s not easy, but I can tell you, it works.