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December 30, 2022 / by

Auto mechanic shortage: How to stop the revolving door of auto technicians

Hiring qualified auto technicians can be exceptionally difficult in today’s job market. Technicians are leaving the industry and aren’t being replaced, even though it could be argued that with the increasing demand for electric vehicles, now is a great time to enter the automotive technician field.

But what are the core causes of this mechanic shortage, and what can dealerships and automotive shops do about it?

Why are automotive technicians leaving the field?

There are a few underlying causes for the auto technician shortage. Even pre-pandemic there was a move away from jobs in trade. But as COVID-19 became a global pandemic, it became clear that many of those trades, including auto technicians, were “essential workers.”

The other outcome of the global pandemic was that these essential workers realized their value, and the automotive industry has often suffered from technicians and other service department employees feeling they are underpaid and undervalued.

“I left the service industry and moved into auto parts sales,” Michael Ruggerie, assistant manager at a Nampa in Pullman, Washington, told us. “The hours are shorter and more regular, the job is less physical and I actually make more money.”

His story is not atypical. Technicians and service advisors, who are also in short supply, cite the lack of a clear career path as well. “Where was I headed?” Michael’s coworker Avery told us. “I didn’t want to wrench all day forever. Here, I have the opportunity for growth and even franchise ownership eventually if that’s what I want.”

Others are leaving the industry altogether. But there are ways your dealership or shop can recruit and retain more technicians.

How to recruit more technicians

Today’s cars require more than just knowing one end of a wrench from another and having the arm strength to break a bolt loose. Computers dominate control of many of the engine functions and other parts of modern vehicles, and knowledge of diagnostics and electronics is essential. Computer aptitude ranks nearly equally with knowledge of physical systems.

This means education, and that education can be expensive. Offering new technicians training or even helping pay for the training they have already received is a great way to set yourself apart.

Proviging ongoing training using a service like Autodata is also a good retention incentive. It can help techs keep up with changing procedures and technology, and can help them learn a new process easily and quickly.

In addition, it is helpful to know where to find new automotive repair technicians. From major job boards to automotive-specific boards, or even finding techs through social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, there are a variety of places to find auto mechanic technicians with the skills you need.

Here are a few tips to help recruit and retain quality technicians: 

  • Focus on skills over education.
  • Look at specific experience related to your shop and the work you do.
  • Offer hiring bonuses
  • Offer recruitment bonuses to your current techs. They often know other techs who would be a good fit for your business.

Remember, to fight the mechanic shortage you need to be taking good care of the people who already work for you. Their word of mouth and employer reviews will be one of the greatest recruitment tools you have. It is far more effective to keep your current staff than retrain and rehire new techs. 

So how do you keep the talent you have from leaving?

How to retain your current techs

There are several keys to keeping technicians happy where they are. If you are experiencing high turnover, you need to look at each of these areas carefully.

  • Auto technician salary: One of the top reasons someone will leave a job is the promise of higher pay elsewhere. Offer competitive wages in your area.
  • Repair Technician Benefits: From health insurance to perks like gym memberships and paid vacation and holidays, there are a lot of benefits you can offer to keep technicians engaged and happy.
  • Mechanic Training: The ongoing Autodata training mentioned above can be an incentive for your current techs as well.
  • Vehicle Repair Programs: When your techs are engaged in a difficult repair, they need more than a pat on the back. Auto repair software like Identifix Direct Hit and Direct Help can both be great assets to give techs the direction they need and the option to “phone a friend” and get one-on-one support they need, to keep them feeling confident and comfortable in your shop.

The final piece of the puzzle is open communication with your techs. Check-in and see how they are doing. If they seem unhappy, determine why, and work to fix the situation. It bears repeating: Keeping your current techs is much easier and less expensive than hiring new ones, and experience is difficult to replace.

Stopping the revolving door

Approaching the automotive repair technician shortage requires a strategy. It starts from your recruiting strategy, where you find techs, and what you offer them to join your team. But it also means offering your current techs the same perks and others to keep them engaged and happy.

Hiring auto technicians and keeping them in today’s job market is tough, but if you work to set yourself apart, you’ll find you can not only stop the revolving door, but auto technicians will want to work for you.

Learn more about solutions to recruit and support your auto technicians with the right auto repair software at Identifix today.