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Repair Shop Advice

Looking Outside the Auto Repair Industry for New Hires


July 23, 2021

The pandemic has shrunk the workforce, and that’s bad news for the auto repair industry.  Jobless claims have dropped significantly since last April, but there are still seven million fewer people with jobs than before the pandemic.

Many businesses are hoping that there will be an influx of job seekers when schools open and unemployment benefits shrink.  Those things will certainly bring some younger workers back into the job market.  But more Baby Boomers retired in 2020 than in any year in history, and they aren’t coming back.

For the auto repair industry, it’s especially unlikely that hiring will suddenly become painless in September.  Technicians were already hard to find before the pandemic, due in large part to a shortage of young workers interested in the job or the industry.

Dealerships, franchises and independent shops are even more desperate for the small stream of newly trained technicians entering the industry than they were before the pandemic. Whatever it took to attract new employees in 2019, it’s likely to take more now.

And that’s why it might be time to look outside of the industry for hires.

Restaurant, Retail and Hospitality Workers

Many employees in restaurant, retail and hospitality jobs weren’t considering different industries before the pandemic. But after those jobs evaporated overnight, many were forced into rethinking whether those high-stress, off-hours jobs were worth the low pay they offered.

Even though these employees aren’t likely to have experience in the automotive industry, they might be a great fit for a service writer or customer service role.  They’re accustomed to providing customer-facing service, staying on their feet and keeping things moving in environments where margins depend on it.

For restaurant, retail and hospitality workers looking to change careers, a job in an auto repair shop offers things their current occupation probably doesn’t.  Independent repair shops, for instance, can offer reliable hours and a low-turnover environment with a positive culture.  Employees coming from these industries tend to be younger than the average US worker, which means they have plenty of time to grow into their roles and continue supporting your shop for years (or decades) to come.

Hiring for Attitude, Motivation and Cultural Fit

Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to fill technician roles with employees from other industries.  To provide value to the shop, technicians need at least enough experience to handle the most basic jobs that come through the doors.  That means technicians with little or no experience are likely to slow your shop down at first, rather than speed things up.

That doesn’t mean hiring a novice can’t work out well for your shop.  If an employee is interested in the work you do and motivated to grow quickly, they can become one of your best performers over time.

Once you’re able to train someone to handle basic jobs like changing oil and replacing tires, you can free up your more experienced technicians for higher-value roles while making money off of your new hire each day they’re training.  And unlike an auto technician program at a community college, they can get paid while they learn the job, instead of going in debt to do it.  That’s a major draw for anyone considering a job in the industry.

It’s true that many franchise oil & lube shops already offer these “no experience necessary” types of roles.  But unlike those shops, technicians who choose to start at an independent repair shop can gain exposure to more advanced work whenever they’re ready to take it on.

Believe it or not, there are still kids in high school who are more excited about jumping right in to the working world than spending four years at college.  And there are also plenty of gig-economy workers who gave up on that career during the pandemic and want something more stable and reliable.  If you’re willing to take on the responsibility of mentoring someone who is new to the industry, it’s a great way to skip the line full of other shops willing to do whatever it takes for another experienced technician.

Another benefit – you won’t have to retrain them to do things the way you do them at your shop.

To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you bring more vehicles into your shop (and advertise your job openings!) call us at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.