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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
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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.
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How Long is a Labor Hour? Did you ever stop and wonder how long a labor hour actually is? I’m not talking about time ticking away on a clock. I’m talking about the actual time spent on a repair vs. the labor guide’s suggested time. Personally, I’ve never had a job that started and finished exactly to the second of the given labor time. It’s not like the labor guide’s hourly chart is set in stone, or that they’re wrong, but when it comes to getting paid it sure seems like they are. Any mechanic will tell you that a labor hour can stretch to half a day if a lot of research is involved, or it can last 15 minutes. Most labor guides typically don’t take into account how much research, diagnosis, equipment setup, or the time it takes recover your 10mm socket that just fell down into the motor. Time, as they say, is money. If you don’t think so, take your car to any bodyshop and read off the labor charges. You’ll find the labor time is divided into a 1/10th of an hour. However, in the mechanical repair shop, seldom are the labor costs scrutinized as they are when dealing with insurance companies. Even still, I’ve never once been asked to break down the mechanical repair labor into diagnostic time and the actual physical labor when giving an estimate. Estimates are usually quoted by the R&R labor time for a particular repair. Generally, that doesn’t include diagnostic time. Even though the book time has been calculated out, it’s still not a complete guide and certainly not the Holy Grail of the repair industries time clock. Try sticking with an estimate for changing a starter that’s listed as one hour job. More than likely the estimate is only going to be quoted straight from book of a one-hour labor charge and not any diagnostic time included. Even with all the technically advanced diagnostic tools a professional mechanic has at their disposal there are still people who can’t understand why diagnostic time should be included in the labor estimate, even though it’s not part of the R&R for the component. In their mind, (as I’ve been told numerous times), the mechanic should already know what’s wrong when they pull their car into the shop. What’s worse is the price shopper who calls from shop to shop looking for the cheapest repair. I’d bet to say the cheapest quote is probably nothing more than the R&R labor time for whatever part they’re concerned about. However, nobody mentioned anything about the crusted connections at the battery, or the leaking valve cover that’s coated the starter in oil, or whether you’ve installed aftermarket headers. Not to mention any diagnostic time, because the real problem isn’t the starter at all. On the other hand there are the stop watch aficionados. You know, the people who literally count the seconds of every minute and are bound to argue over any labor time discrepancies on their invoice. The mechanic’s entire career, (in their way of thinking), is strictly turning bolts and slapping on parts. These tick-tock-time-keepers, watch their timepieces with precision and inevitably use “time” as the only determining factor for the cost of a repair. For instance, let’s say the book time said an hour, and everyone involved agreed upon the charges, but the mechanic got it done in 25 minutes. The argument has always been that the cost of the job should be no more than the time it took to do it. Should the mechanic be penalized for doing his job proficiently and having completed it early? Where does it say he should give the job to the customer at some discounted rate because he can beat the book time? Doesn’t seem right at all. But, what if the same job that was quoted for an hour has taken four hours to complete? Who pays for the time difference now? So in a sense, a labor hour isn’t an hour at all. It’s an arbitrary amount of time that may or may not be exactly 60 minutes. If it was as accurate as some people believe, then theoretically you should get an estimate for that hour’s labor, pull up to the repair shop, and walk out in exactly 60 minutes with the job completed. Not a second sooner or a second later. Yea, good luck with that one. Like most trades mechanics get paid by the hour, however it’s not like you punch a time clock in the morning, work all day, then collect a 40-hour paycheck at the end of the week. Most mechanics work on flag time. Realistically, let’s call it what it really is… piece work, (the piece being the car). Very few mechanics are offered an hourly pay and a guaranteed 40-hour work week, (although there are some places that use a combination of both flag time and hourly pay). More times than not, a mechanic ends up eating a whole lot of labor time for problem solving. Whether there are rusted bolts, bad connections, illusive intermittent problems or poor information from the get-go, something is going to use up time which eventually won’t go towards a paycheck. Any time money and people are involved in the same situation, and you’re dealing with something that’s not widely understood, such as the modern car, it’s up to the mechanics and the repair shops to make sure they do. Customers also need to understand that this is a business based on suggested labor hours and not a time clock. There needs to be a reasonable amount of trust in the labor guide estimates from both sides of the counter. Because, it’s hard to say how long an hour of labor really is.
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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.......
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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.
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