In my last column, I touched on how to start auditing your tech friendliness as part of a plan to hire quality, qualified technicians who will want to stick with your shop. Once you’ve looked at your own practices, the next step is to take action.
Logically, step one to bringing in new technicians is recruitment, but how does that look in the real world when working with school boards and instructors?
As the editor of Shop Owner’s sister publication, Tomorrow’s Technician, I’ve seen schools do an amazing job of laying out opportunities for local businesses to work with their students. Many businesses don’t even realize these opportunities are available, or simply haven’t dedicated their time to building these vital relationships with local schools. The fact is, technician training schools around the country are looking for businesses like yours to work with and hire their students.
In our own tech recruitment case study, we looked at how the best technician training works with businesses, and how you can start building a relationship with local schools to create a path to employment for their students.
Creating Employment Channels
The Tomorrow’s Technician 2018 School of the Year – Bullard-Havens Technical High School – is a real-world example of how a school can connect employers to students. Part of why Tomorrow’s Technician chose the school as the winner of the program was because of their excellent job at getting students to work.
Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bullard-Havens has two programs that get local businesses involved: a Trade Advisory Committee and a Work Based Learning (WBL) program.
Essentially, these two programs create a perfect employment channel for businesses to hire Bullard-Havens auto students.
The employment channel on the shop owner end is pretty simple:
- Reach out to local ASE-accredited auto programs
- Join advisory boards, task forces, internship programs, etc.
- Share your needs with the school
- Interview students
- Hire student interns
- Test and train student interns
- Hire students full-time
Here is how that channel works for Bullard-Havens and the local businesses hiring their students through the school’s Trade Advisory Committee and Work-based Learning program.
Trade Advisory Committee
Bullard-Havens’ Trade Advisory Committee involves 20 local businesses, dealerships and independent shops who visit with the school twice a year to figure out what the school needs to do to get students working at their businesses.
This is a chance for businesses like yours to express any concerns:
Are you getting technicians who have no idea how to turn a wrench, but can use a scan tool?
Are you finding technicians lack basic problem-solving skills when not presented with a text book repair?
Are you finding the younger generation lacking basic soft skills like answering the phone and talking to customers?
A Trade Advisory Committee like the one Bullard-Havens has created is your chance to tell schools what you are experiencing so they can cater their education to correct these issues. It’s also essential for you to tell them the more positive things you notice or need:
You are looking to hire two new lube techs.
You want to train a new technician to become a service manager.
You are working with more vehicles with ADAS systems and complex diagnostics.
After Bullard-Havens has these meetings and gathers the information from employers, they work to integrate those needs into their programs and look for students that fit those businesses. In April, Bullard-Havens students prepare resumes and cover letters and have interviews with these businesses. The businesses then select students to job shadow for a day – which is their big interview. If all goes well the student moves on to WBL and gets paid to work in a shop instead of coming to school on shop days.
The Work-based Learning (WBL) program was implemented at the school to get students internships that eventually lead to part-time employment during school hours, and the opportunity for the shop to hire them full-time during the summers and after graduation.
It creates a great opportunity for students to get hands-on, real-world training and it’s an opportunity for shops to train and test out potential technicians.
“You go straight to work,” says Barry Jean-Pierre, a senior automotive student and WBL participant. “[WBL] was a great experience, and I learned a lot. It’s fast paced, real life, real customers, real cars.”
By having student technicians in your shop, you can teach them exactly how you want your techs to work. It is the perfect opportunity to mold young technicians into what your shop desperately needs. Yes, it will take some time, but you aren’t stuck with your new technician like a new employee, until you officially hire them on full-time. It’s a great way to test the technician pool and see what works for your shop.
Using this program, any hardworking, eligible student can get a job at a local shop. This is not an uncommon program. Most vocational schools have similar programs and they are always looking for new partners. Plus, if you have good relationships with the instructors, they will be able to find you good help on the spot and give you their best student techs.
A word of caution: You’ll notice that a lot of businesses working with schools are new car dealerships. And, they are probably better at recruiting and building these relationships that you need. For a student who doesn’t want to focus on one manufacturer, working for an independent repair shop is a very appealing career path. And, these students might not be getting opportunities for the local shop from their own school programs. It is up to you to make these connections with schools and be persistent in working with them.