[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough some of you may tend to think of TV game shows when you hear the term “survey says,” MPN’s annual Powersports Industry Profile speaks volumes. One of the biggest concerns, especially among franchised dealers, is getting/retaining qualified employees. Considering the fact that the survey also said that service work was the single largest profit center for the majority of dealerships, it confirms there is a need for good techs out there.
You think good help is hard to find now? Just wait to see what happens in the next five years! The elimination of shop classes and vocational training from many school curriculums, combined with ever-increasing technology on the vehicle side is creating a perfect storm that threatens to totally dry up the talent pool for trained techs.
Remember shop class in junior high? Most kids these days don’t have access to any of the hands-on training that we took for granted when we were in school. There is already a severe shortage of technicians… more than 50 percent of the “help wanted” positions posted are for wrench spinners and service writers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the situation will improve as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find young people who want to become mechanics.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for mechanics is expected to increase 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, adding 124,800 jobs for a total of 848,200 positions in the U.S. job market. That is the good news if you are a qualified technician looking to land a gig in the powersports industry. The flip side is that if you are an employer looking for talent, better start your search YESTERDAY!
Compounding the problem is that while technology is elevating, the trained workforce is declining. A & B level techs are being asked to deal with “black box” technology that requires expensive diagnostic computers… and the advent of electric motorcycles is only going to make it tougher. Technology leaps and concepts like “fly-by-wire” boggle the mind for old school mechanics and it seems as if kids would rather spend their time on a PlayStation console than in a vocational training program.
Back in the 1950s, all a would-be tech needed was access to Whitworth tools to work on old British bikes, in the very near future, everyone will need a degree in electrical engineering! With EFI, ABS, GPS and the rest of the alphabet full of high-tech electronic components built into the modern motorcycle, the shade tree mechanic armed with his claw hammer and a crescent wrench really doesn’t stand a chance! It could be worse, though. A typical car may have 20+ microprocessors running software with thousands of lines of code to control vital systems.
The OEMs have seen the future and BMW’s vision calls for Augmented Reality (A/R) for the technician of tomorrow. Utilizing technology to tackle technology, BMW created their version of Google Glass to make it possible for the average mechanic to accomplish the most difficult jobs… and it demonstrated it back in 2009! Small screens built into the glasses show every part highlighted in colors, while the built-in headset puts computer-generated instructions on what to disassemble, in what order directly into the ear of the mechanic.
The question becomes when do the machines start repairing the machines without the need for an old-fashioned wrench spinner? Survey says: sooner than later. Until that time, the powersports industry will continue to place a premium on trained technicians.
What Our Survey Said About Finding Employees
Did you happen to study the 2015 Powersports Industry Profile survey results in the March issue of MPN? More than 50 percent of the dealers indicated they were “very concerned“ about finding employees, compared with 8.3 percent who were not concerned at all! For the sake of argument (and the fact that you have read this far), we will assume you are among the majority who are concerned about quality employees.
Here is the scoop:
For the last three years, MPN has surveyed a randomly selected group of readers to determine the state of the industry. By finding answers to key questions about your businesses, we can all do a better job. Survey questions covered topics ranging from shop operations, staffing and supply to online presence, marketing strategies and other industry concerns. Although MIJ has a particular interest in some key questions regarding staffing, we also believe a rising tide floats all boats, so we were proud to sponsor the survey.
A big thanks to all the dealers who completed the survey. Our goal is to provide you with insight you can use for your business planning now and in the future.