As every dealer knows, technicians can make or break a service department. In this day and age of highly sophisticated vehicles, it is important to staff your service department with well-trained and motivated techs in order to fix every vehicle right the first time. But it’s extremely tough to find and keep qualified techs.

A common route dealerships use to find technicians is to advertise in the local paper. This sometimes results in a good candidate, but more often it helps find technicians who are disgruntled, have developed bad habits, and are just looking for higher pay. Let’s take a look at some other options, as well as key strategies for keeping your best techs on your roster.

Back to School

Most community colleges and technical schools offer two-year degrees in automotive technology. Graduates have learned the fundamentals of auto repair and have demonstrated a level of commitment to the field. Though they may be lacking in experience, they can grow into valuable assets for a service department.

Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) is another good resource for entry-level techs. It’s a program available at select high schools in which students participate in learning auto technology while spending time working for a service facility. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), studies have shown that AYES interns who move on to full-time jobs in the service department are loyal to the dealerships in which they work and often improve efficiency and profitability. And because interns are paid less, dealerships can make a higher profit on the work they generate.

Given the difficulty of finding good technicians, dealerships should work equally hard at keeping them. The best way to do this is train, train, train. Given today’s vehicle complexity, it is imperative that technicians are properly trained on a consistent basis.

Training not only ensures technicians have the proper knowledge to repair the vehicle (fixed right the first time) but also demonstrates the dedication of the dealership to continuing education. Techs who are well-trained tend to be more productive and take more pride in what they do. Let’s face it, when a tech tries to perform a job he is not trained to do, there are some serious consequences: bad CSI, rechecks and exposure to liability, just to name a few.

Don’t look at training as an expense. Think of it as an investment in the viability and profitability of your service department for the future. Take advantage of factory-sponsored training and advanced courses at community colleges. Train your techs properly, and chances are they will be an asset for your service department for many years to come.

Jim Alton is service solutions specialist for Service Group, an F&I income development company. [email protected]