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Five Things YOU Can Do in 2016 to Overcome the Technician Shortage

Tuesday, January 5, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jay Corn
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As the marine industry has returned to sales growth, it has rekindled the age-old conversation on the technician shortage. Dealerships are selling and servicing more boats, but they simply can’t find qualified technicians to help with the increase in service demand, and that has hampered the growth of our individual businesses and the industry at large.

This Marine Retailers Association of the Americas Special Presentation is designed to explore solutions for overcoming the technician shortage both as an industry and in your individual business. Here are five ideas you can begin exploring today.

1. Tap into your existing techs

Stay in close communication with your existing techs. Not only are they an excellent source of leads for new techs, but they also have valuable information on how to improve the shop processes, efficiency, and work environment. Being a great shop to work in is paramount for both retaining and attracting top talent. Not all techs are great communicators, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have great ideas. Explore the best methods to mine their valuable insight: shop meetings, one-on-one discussions or anonymous surveys are options.

2. Hire Seasonal Help with Intention

How many kids really know what they want to be when they grow up? Dealers who hire seasonal or part-time help with the intention of exposing young workers to the many career paths in our industry have a better shot at finding young talent to develop. It starts in the interview: Tell the young person about the unique opportunities available in our industry – how many people started just like them – with a job washing boats and picking up trash and are now dealers, manufacturer execs and well-compensated technicians, parts, service and sales professionals. Let these new hires know what skills they need to develop to become indispensible to our industry – building customer loyalty, growing dealership profits, and suggesting new ideas. Many shops hire seasonal help but not enough of them actually hire with intention. Imagine how many young people we could attract if a large percentage of our dealerships did this. 

3. Sponsor Your Techs

There are many different ways to sponsor a tech in training. Some service departments pay up-front to send a tech to school, but they can be disappointed when that individual leaves them in search of greener pastures just as the store starts recouping their investment. Here is one example of how a dealer has mitigated his risk: After a 90-day probation period, the service department will pay the tech’s following month’s student loan payment after each successful working month. If the tech leaves or is let go, no payment is made. Sponsorship can also include building the young tech’s tool inventory, allowing them to attend manufacturer training or other creative solutions.

4. Create a Mentorship Program

There is a reason why mentorship has been around for generations of employees: It works! If you currently have at least one tech capable of passing his knowledge along, create an internal mentorship program. Mentorship is the quickest way to build up a new tech’s skills and confidence, and set him up for success. Mentorship can help the older tech with an assistant to do the hard, heavy or tight space work – and it often feels good for the experienced tech to pass on what they’ve had to learn “the hard way.” Mentorship can also help the shop’s bottom line because it reduces the chance of costly comebacks, and allows more work to be accomplished. Some stores set up their mentoring techs with a bonus based on hours the apprentice turns. This is not always necessary, but it can help – not only with the lead but also with the student who is likely not used to being focused on hours. 

5. Get the Word Out

Increase your community’s awareness of the career opportunities available in the marine industry. High school, community college, trade school boards, and local veteran job placement organizations, state and local Marine Trade Associations and local workforce boards are just a few examples of places where you can help shape decision making to put marine tech career choices in the forefront of educators’, career councilors’ and administrators’ minds. You offer a little bit of your time and a lot of real-world experience in return for a chance to attract more young talent to the amazing industry we love.