My first job was mowing a local business’ lawn. It took hours…the lawnmower had no motor…it was powered by rotating blades, which were only powered by the person pushing the mower.
Times change, there was a time in our business when people were lined up to work for us. There were few jobs that could not be filled by placing an ad in a local paper, or asking a member of your team if they knew anyone who would like to work with us. People were accustomed to working their way up in an organization, pay started at minimum, and people rose up based on talent, ability and effort.
Today there are fewer people looking for automotive jobs. The more difficult positions to fill are skilled, technical positions: Parts people, technicians, and body shop workers. These are extremely important employees and they no longer are lining up to work for us. There are a multitude of reasons for this change. Parents point their children towards college and work that does not include grease and oil. There has been a not-so-subtle shift by teachers and guidance counselors guiding young people away from the trades. There is an incorrect assumption that trades are for less intelligent people or that manual labor is somehow demeaning and doesn’t pay!
If we are committed to growth and prosperity, we need to change that perception. Our New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association and its Education Foundation is working hard to educate and inform the next generation of dealership and industry workers. They have hired people to be our eyes and ears in the search for great talent.
Jessica Dade, the NHAEF assistant Executive Director, is reaching out to high school students and community college educators to create a bridge between students and schools. This is a great start, but we need people like Jessica in every community in New Hampshire! Even manufacturers have gotten into the game with programs springing up all over the country. They recognize that they need more people choosing these trades for their careers and it still isn’t enough.
As dealers we need to get involved too.
This means committing our time and treasure to the effort. This means sitting on local advisory boards, meeting students in both high schools and colleges and building bridges. Bridges cost money, and this effort will need our financial support as well!. We need to develop and offer programs and incentives to attract good talent and keep it! Some of this effort is utilizing programs that were successful in the past.
Apprenticeships, tuition reimbursement and greater investment in high school and college shop programs. Some will be the new ideas percolating in our heads. To get top flight people, we will need to spend time and money. Our industry offers great promise for a very good life with jobs that are financially rewarding and personally satisfying. Things aren’t what they were…but with some time and effort by us…they can be even better!