Beating The Tech Shortage Through Mentoring

Beating The Tech Shortage Through Mentoring

How understanding the 80/20 Rule and creative mentoring can make the shortage less threatening.

Boomers will soon have left the workforce. There are not enough career-technical education schools, instructors or students available to meet demand. Unemployment is a super low 3.4%, which means most unemployed are not capable or interested in work.

This isn’t just happening to you – the worker shortage is a worldwide phenomenon. 

Now, in 2023, the technician crisis continues to grow.

An amazing 74% of automotive businesses currently need at least one technician and are willing to fill the spot with an entry-level tech prospect. The problem: what happens when the entry-level tech arrives?

80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is alive and well. 

  • 20% of product or service managers are investigating new ways to counter the technician shortage. Many are considering mentoring.
  • Of those who say that they are willing to attract and train youth in-house, 80% have NO PLAN. 

When pushed, 80% of managers confess they are not competent in recruiting and, worse yet, are poor at implementing effective training and/or mentoring protocols. 

Currently, 80% percent of service managers confess to being unskilled in HR. They aren’t convinced that attracting, training or mentoring youth is part of their job, or that they can even do it. The 80% are more comfortable with day-to-day production problems and not at solving the higher-level HR need. 

One manager said, “I don’t know how to talk to young people, and they are always waving a mobile device… even in an interview.”

But, while unprepared managers guiding untrained workers may be our shared reality (and nightmare), the remaining 20% of managers say they are viewing the shortage as an opportunity. If you’re one of those who don’t have a plan, it’s time to elbow your way into the 20% group that focuses on HR.

Skilled Applicants Looking for Mentoring

Young, entry-level or non-skilled applicants are more picky now when considering a job. Instructors, counselors and parents are drilling into new job hunters, “Don’t take a job UNLESS the business can prove they have OJT (On the Job Training)or continuing education” … and “Ask if they provide mentoring!”

The reality is that technical applicants in all industries have learned they can be selective. A young applicant’s employment expectations may contrast with an older manager. Handing them a broom and giving the “my way or the highway” lecture from 20-30 years ago is no longer acceptable. 

To become part of the successful 20% of managers, the remaining 80% must focus on HR and adapt to a new generation. Most won’t.

The Unfocused 80% Is an Opportunity

Winning managers (the top 20%) see a worker shortage as an opportunity to expand their knowledge on new mentoring OJT and HR structures. 

The 20% accept that every recruit doesn’t work out. Persistence: trying again and again until expertise is gained, provides a distinct advantage. The 80% who won’t solve their shortage probably won’t persist and finish this article…will you? 

Entrepreneur Steve Mehr said, “You get what you focus on, so focus on what you need.” Solid words to remember!

OJT and mentoring are the possible solution… focus on that! The weak 80% manager will waste time and effort trying to find an “Easy Button” that will magically line A-techs up at his shop’s door.

There is no easy button! There is only being smarter, faster and more competent in human resources than the competition. 

Quick Self-Assessment of Your HR Competence

When prospective technicians or low-skill or no-skill prospects meet with you or your team, is the applicant impressed? Are they wowed? 

Do you conduct an open, warm, professional interview of a possible mentor or mentee/apprentice? Are you prepared to show the applicant the opportunities that your industry and your business can offer?

Even among the 20% of effective managers, few create and present a one-page Career Plan. To win them, You must WOW’em! 

Mentoring: Can you provide it?

Mentoring is a management tool. It won’t solve all your problems. It doesn’t work all the time and your team must be prepared BEFORE you have mentees. Mentoring is not easy…particularly at first. And certainly not the first time, second or third time, either.

For the right managers in a willing and able business, mentoring can provide HR relief and be a powerful, competitive business strategy. Winning at mentoring means future-techs can:

  • Be more easily attracted.
  • Find a “home” and a career.
  • Learn specific technology you need faster.
  • Learn hands on and by example. 
  • Grow into higher technology jobs and create higher profits over time.

Success is not based solely on “management” skill. If mentoring fails, it is not the mentor or the mentee’s fault, but management’s doing. Try again and again until you’ve figured it out. 

In the era of skilled worker shortages, leaders and managers must upskill themselves so they can better handle the most valuable and complicated asset: their people.

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