Posted to Shop Management Forum on 11/15/2015
Re: Attracting New Talent
Gary, Pete, & All,
Like Gary, I'm trying not to write a novel, so here goes...
We are a transmission specialty shop; one of the few that
doesn't do general repairs. We have enough transmission and
drivetrain related business we don't have to. The last 3
years of our business we averaged $1.1M in sales out of a 3K
sq. ft. rinky dink shop with only 4 lifts and 3 techs. Our
best year was $1.3M.
We built a classroom with all the bells and whistles. LCD
projector, big screen, whiteboard, DVD, etc. We had weekly
training sessions for the entire shop that were required. We
watched technical webinars. I taught and trained. I gave
homework. (I'm a CMAT and former rebuilder)
We paid not only for the annual ATRA seminars when they came
around to SLC (including wages to attend) we also did the
same for the annual Powertrain Expo down in Vegas where we
close the shop for 3 days and the entire shop goes. The shop
pays for hotel, registration, plus the guys are on the clock
to attend because we require that they go. Four years ago
the Expo was in Washington D.C. and we had to pay round trip
airfare to boot. We did all of this for the better part of 7
years. We averaged about $25K/yr. in training costs.
Sounds all fine and wonderful, doesn't it? It's an absolute
waste of time and money. Absolute waste. Let me share with
you what I learned the hard way to where you don't make the
same mistake I made.
I figured if I smothered the techs in training, we'd have
the best shop around. In some respects, we did. Morale was
high and everybody was working as a team. Why not? They got
a free lunch every Tuesday during the shop training meeting
plus paid training. Technically we sucked. We had a horrible
comeback rate. First I need to clarify what constitutes a
comeback. It doesn't mean a total transmission failure.
Leaks, harsh shifting, morning sickness, noises, vibrations,
delayed engagements, TCC issues, etc. And of course, let's
not forget the ones that have trouble out of town or out of
state. We're in the middle of BFE, Utah and every place is
far away. Right in the middle of The Great Basin.
You can't take a transmission apart, figure out how it
works, and put it back together and expect it to work today
like we did in the old days when things were much simpler.
Today, just because a transmission is assembled correctly is
no guarantee it will even work, let alone won't be a
comeback. I don't care how hard somebody stares at and
studies at a disassembled transmission on their bench, they
are never going to understand the theory and principles of
operation of an automatic transmission unless they read and
study books. You can't SEE fluid flowing through oil
circuits or electrons flowing through electrical circuits in
today's transmissions. It takes diligent, engaged, and
motivated study on behalf of the technician.
When a transmission builder today has a late model
transmissions not work properly after he rebuilt it, he no
more has any idea of what's going on than the tech that
installed it. THAT'S THE REASON remans are making inroads
into our industry. We let them. Our industry created the
vacuum with under-educated rebuilders. The reman industry
merely filled the vacuum our industry created.
So why didn't my grand plan for training not work? It was so
simple and staring me in the face I didn't see it. I WAS
TEACHING THE WRONG STUDENTS! You want better transmission
rebuilders? You want better automotive technicians? START
WITH BETTER STUDENTS.
98% of the kids wanting to enter this industry are simply
poor students. Plain and simple. They don't do their
homework. They don't study. There's a reason they didn't go
to college. When I started requiring high school transcripts
during the hiring process, I learned why. They won't even
take the time to watch training videos I buy unless I make
them watch them on the clock. When I give homework
assignments, they are never done. Videos aren't watched.
They aren't getting paid to do it. "I have a life outside
this shop." they say.
I didn't have a problem with the transmission
installer/techs; it was the rebuilders. I went through
several during the 7 year training experiment due to quality
control issues. Wages weren't the problem because we paid
between $72K and $112K/yr. depending on quality and
In the end, I found that entry level mechanical engineers,
fresh out of college, make substantially less that that.
Simply by virtue of have a Bachelor's degree, they know how
to read, comprehend, and study. They are used to doing
homework; and lots of it. It's second nature. I don't know
about general auto repair, but it's a great idea for
automatic transmission rebuilding and I'm pursuing it.
I've hooked up with John Kelly at Weber State University,
just north of SLC. He is head of their automotive
department. (Check out his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/WeberAuto ) Even he says that none of his students are
good enough for me to hire. So I'm moving over to the
engineering department and hit them up. I can hire an
engineering intern and the intern gets college credits for
working. Normally, an internship is non-paid, but I'm
offering a paid internship with hopes of hiring the student
full time upon graduation. If not, I'll hire another intern
until I find one that I think will stick.
So, the moral to the story is that we can't baby-sit and
hand-hold these kids into training. It takes motivation on
their part and a lot of the stuff, especially electrical,
HAS to come out of a book. Yeah, practical experience is
great, but today's vehicles require knowledge of theory and
principles of operation and I don't feel like reading any
bedtime stories to apprentices. Know what I mean?
Simply put, the technology of today's automobiles are simply
over the heads of the vast majority of would-be technicians
due to their academically-impaired nature. Some say it's
today's generation, but I beg to differ. If we want better
technicians coming into our industry we need to start with
better students and leave the poor students to the other
trades because ours has now become a profession by anybody's
Technical Information Specialist/Technician
Draper, Utah, USA