My monthly inspirations tend to come from various places – often from clients or current national/world events. As it was, I was all set to write a totally different piece until this past weekend. I spent the weekend traveling 2,800 miles roundtrip to a place I fondly call Siberia, aka Madison, Wisconsin to attend the high school graduation of my nephew (and godson).
It was a picture-perfect June day for an outdoor ceremony. While I admit I wasn’t looking forward to what I envisioned to be an hour or more of “my time during high school” and the typical post-high school inspirational messages, I wanted to be present for what is an exhilarating time in the life of most young adults. It turns out that there were few speeches – just a couple of entertaining skits – but I must admit, it was truly inspiring for all, young and old.
What was inspiring to me was to see the exuberant and bright young minds being turned loose into the world (certainly my nephew included). It was estimated that between 70 to 80 percent of the 350 graduates would be advancing their education in college. I talked with many of them before and after the ceremony. The graduates all had plans. Some were looking forward to careers in international business, engineering, and technology. In my nephew’s case, wants to follow in the footsteps of his father as a physician.
As I was sitting there taking in the event in the all too infrequent Wisconsin sun, three separate thoughts passed through my mind. The first, of course, was how proud I was of my nephew – excellent student, athlete, and most importantly, of stellar character.
Second, in looking around the stadium, it seemed there were scores of other graduates whose families were thinking the same thing. That thought progressed to the thousands of high school graduations that were taking place around the country at the very same time. It was exciting to think of the energy being released into the world, and the same certainly goes for the college graduations taking place.
The third thought was how much I would have enjoyed having my nephew, or someone like him, working with me in my dealerships during my retail years. That’s when it hit me. There wasn’t a single graduate I spoke with that indicated, even remotely, that they looked forward to a career in the automotive industry – let alone the retail or service end of it. It is a rare occasion through my visits and communications with dealers when one indicates that they have an endless supply of top level people and talent looking to come to work for them. I am now convinced I was not the norm because, at age four, I knew I wanted to be a car dealer. I loved cars, and my parents’ friends were car dealers.
Why is that? Those that choose automotive careers find it rewarding both emotionally and financially. Why does our industry seem to be an afterthought for someone only when their initial plans don’t pan out? It would appear that is an ongoing indictment of our industry.
Maybe the lack of interest is due to poorly marketing ourselves to the younger generation. Maybe dealers and dealer associations should spend more time with the schools in our area, making positive impressions on the students that will become an important part of the workforce in three to seven years. I wonder how many of the 20 to 30 percent of my nephew’s school graduates who were not going on to college know that an average line-technician earns well over $60,000 per year, and A-grade techs often earn well over $100,000. Why shouldn’t that be a serious consideration and motivator for any young, mechanically oriented student?
All I know is that I just witnessed a wealth of talent and enthusiasm walking across risers to receive their diplomas, and none of them were aspiring to enter this wonderful industry. That’s a shame. Whether it be job fairs, Junior Achievement, career days or looking for opportunities to speak to young high school students on any subject, we as an industry need to step up to speak, making these bright young minds cry – “I want to be like him (or her).” It is hard to overstate how powerful an impression a successful automobile dealer or executive have can have on young adults, potentially inspiring their future decisions.
In any case, we need to fuel the next generation’s passions. I was fortunate to find mine early knowing at the age of four that I wanted to be a car dealer. The industry didn’t seek me out. Rather, I sought it. I would much rather find someone that has the passion to be in the auto industry, rather than to have to entice them into the industry after their first passion failed to materialize. Certainly that latter works, but wouldn’t it be nice the other way around. We can have a say in that.
My nephew has a passion for cars, but he has a greater passion for medicine. He will follow in his father’s footsteps and make a world-class physician. Now, nephew number two is equally bright and soon to become a junior in high school. As of yet, he is undecided as to what he aspires to do. The time has come to start to work on him…
In the meantime, do your part and invest today in your future. Don’t ask, “Why can’t we find quality people to work in the industry?” but rather, “What can we do to attract the next generation to us. You must plant seeds to obtain growth. Inspire the next generation now so that perhaps when they cross the stage to receive their diplomas, aspirations are firmly seeded in the automotive industry. Tell me if you agree or disagree by e-mailing me at [email protected]
Until next month,
Invest in your future!
Vol 3, Issue 7
Nissan made the Sentra America’s most affordable lease vehicle in January and lowered the average cost to lease a new Altima by 20%.