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Hiring and Training Beginners in Your Auto Shop

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Finding and hiring good auto techs is one of the biggest challenges that auto repair shop owners and managers have. We discussed numerous options they may use to do this in a previous blog and survey. One of the possibilities we mentioned was training beginners from scratch, mentoring them to become great techs who will be invested in the success of their shops. What are the advantages of “growing your own” techs?

What Do You Need to Become an Auto Tech?

Back in the old days, many mechanically inclined people worked on their own cars and did basic maintenance as needed. Before cars were extensively computerized, there were many shade tree mechanics who could be hired at a lower rate to do repairs even though they had no formal training. It’s harder now for an untrained mechanic to break into the industry. Most auto techs go to school and get certified before they apply for jobs. It is still possible, though, to learn those skills on the job either via internship or apprenticeship or through doing simpler repairs or maintenance and learning as you go. 

For the auto shop owner, there are advantages to hiring and training beginners, although most still require that the tech have a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license. 

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Reasons for Hiring and Training Beginners

Hiring and mentoring your own untrained workforce has some real benefits. If you have experienced techs who are decent at training and willing to mentor new techs, this approach to recruiting can result in much better workforce retention. That’s because mentors both teach and build relationships. Both of those are needed to have a successful workforce. 

For most people it’s much better to learn a hands-on skill one on one with a personal teacher rather than in a classroom. The repetition of completing certain repairs also helps students to fully learn their skill sets and identify how the same problem may require different solutions on different vehicles. 

Mentors also teach their students about life skills like respecting coworkers, coming to work on time, acquiring the right tools, and taking good care of them. With every skill, professional or personal, that the new tech learns, he also learns trust and respect for his teacher and the other employees around him who know what they are doing. This can be a much less cutthroat learning environment and is great for students who don’t thrive in a classroom or need more time to learn the ropes. 

There are advantages for the mentors as well. Many people enjoy sharing their skills and knowledge and feel appreciated when they take on a leadership role. When they take personal ownership of younger employees, they will invest more in them and help them to succeed. Sometimes they may learn things from them as well or remember the excitement of learning new skills.

Mentor-mentee relationships help break down some of the intergenerational conflict that we are experiencing in our society and workplaces too. The overall benefit for everyone is a more welcoming and supportive company culture. This has a positive impact on worker retention and productivity. 

Finding Quality Beginners to Work for Your Auto Shop

Some auto shops already have an internship or apprenticeship program program set up. Others may want to start one but don’t know how. One way to do this is to host a workshop or a series of workshops on automotive repair for the people of your community. This is good public relations, may result in more business for your shop, and might also attract potential talent. When you host your workshop, look for attendees who are enthusiastic about auto repair or seem motivated to learn more specialized skills. This is a good opportunity to feel them out for whether they might be interested in working for your shop. 

Does your auto repair shop have an internship program? Do you look for untrained beginners to hire and mold into long-term employees? How successful has this been for you? We would love it if you would share your experience with other members, either here or in our forums. The shortage of auto techs is an industry-wide problem and one we would all like to solve.