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A dealer must-read

November 22, 2010
AYES student techs: the service dept.'s future, by Jim Butcher, Illinois AYES Manager

Are you the type of dealer who allows life to dictate its terms to you, or do you aggressively seek to take charge of situations confronting you? My guess is you arrived at your current position as a direct result of your "take charge" attitude. Business owners rarely are successful if they let others dictate their success. That's why I want to tell you about what is generally forecast as coming down the road in the next few years. Sure, your service department may be booming at this very moment. Sure, you may even be slow at this time of the year. But what you don't see is what is (or is not coming) in the near future for your service department. I am talking about service technicians. There is a growing trend for young people to shy away from service sector jobs. This will directly affect your service department in the next 5 years. As a former automotive technology instructor, I witnessed firsthand the steady decline in the number of interested students embarking on automotive service careers. I taught for 11 years at the Technology Center of DuPage, formerly known as Davea Career Center, in Addison. In those years of teaching, I saw the automotive program enrollment double from 140 students to over 280 per year. In spite of this trend, the amount of interested (and qualified) students remained the same or dropped. We are just not doing a very good job of promoting the service sector to our young people. The old perceptions remain about the service departments. Currently, as head of the AYES (Automotive Youth Educational Systems) program for Illinois, I see the trend on a larger scale. I currently work with 7 high schools throughout Illinois and northwest Indiana. The collective automotive enrollment for these schools is about 900 students. Of those students, about 50 have chosen automotive service as their career choice. Yes, 50 of 900. With over 600 new vehicle dealers in the Chicago area, these 50 students should be a mere drop in the bucket. You can talk all day about how our youth don't want to work hard anymore, that all they want to do is play on the computers, but I don't buy it. The AYES program has identified 50 students who are eager to start their careers in the service sector, if only they get the chance to do so. According to Automobile Mechanics' Local 701, the average age of a service technician in Illinois is 48 to 50 years old-an incredibly high average. Combine that age factor with the low number of young people willing to enter the service sector, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are in for a rough road ahead in the near future. So what is this AYES program that seeks to bring young talent into your service department? AYES is a national program sponsored by your manufacturer and your local dealer associations (CATA and the IADA). AYES brings a systematic approach to the high school's automotive training program. The result is a student who is ready for entry level service at your dealership. How does AYES actually work at the school? Currently, AYES has the support of 13 automotive manufacturers: General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes- Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Kia, Hyundai, and Nissan. These manufacturers donate to the AYES schools vehicles, curriculum, training aids, shop equipment, tools, and online TSB and technical support. The same technical service support you use in your dealership service department. The student completes the AYES training program with 650 hours of training on the newest and latest equipment. Training hours include the following subjects: • Braking Systems, 105 hours; • Steering and Suspension Systems, 95 hours; • Electrical & Electronic Systems, 230 hours; • Engine Performance & Driveability, 220 hours. The philosophy behind the AYES model and the exposure to only these four areas of study is very easy to understand. We simply feel that a 17- or 18-year-old is not going to be rebuilding automatic transmissions in your service department, so why teach that to them when they would be far better off having a deeper understanding of more fundamental areas? Thus, AYES exposes the automotive student to rigorous study in the four main ASE areas only. By the time these students graduate from high school, they are well on their way to becoming highly qualified automotive service technicians. They are eager to pursue further study in automotive technology at the college level, through the manufacturer's training programs. With all of the denominators facing your service department- average technician age, emerging technologies, competition from other career choices, higher wages in other sectors-you would do well to look at these AYES qualified students. True, they still need more training. True, they are young. But that is the beauty of this program. You get to train them your way. These students have no preexisting bad habits to change. You can mold them specifically for your service department, and they are very eager to work and prove themselves worthy of your dealership. I realize that times are tight in service departments. However, if you see these service sector trends the way I do and you want to be proactive about them, call me at 630-424- 6020, and I will put you in touch with an AYES school and, ultimately, an AYES student. These students are the bestkept secret in service departments today.