By Mike Kennelly
When I first started in the trade we used to have to put in our time pushing brooms, cleaning cars and delivering parts while anticipating our chance to actually work on a vehicle in the shop, hoping that we could work our way into a position as opportunity presented itself. It was standard then, but does that mentality still work in today’s shop? Everything else in the industry and culture is changing, shouldn’t we assume the mentality of the future technician will be different, and in turn the way we look at bringing them up different yet again?
After working with a number of apprentices in our shop and then moving into more formal training at the college, it became evident that the mentality of a large percentage of apprentices has shifted, as society’s mentality shifted. Things have moved to a consumer mentality. The age of disposables, and lowest bidder gets the business seems to have taken over, lowering the importance of loyalty. The mentality of the next generation of technicians and students is shifting to the same thing, rather than wanting to put in time, they are wanting more reward without having to “lay the foundation” of pushing a broom for a year or two (whether or not it is warranted).
An easy way to recognize this mentality is to look at their “mobile mindset.” Students have access to instant gratification through their mobile devices, they can access any information they need at any given point in time, and they can have boggling questions answered in seconds, without knowing any of the background or foundational knowledge that accompanies those subjects. Students are learning differently than they used to in many respects.
This is the mentality of the next generation of your future employees, and our apprentices in our schools. If you couple both the consumer and instant gratification mentalities, you are going to be employing a different type of worker, one who won’t see the value in pushing the broom and one that will be okay with new tasks although they may not know some of the background on the subjects. If you watch how the next generation works, they are working very efficiently. Perhaps some of that attitude is not such a bad thing, but it will take some work figuring out how to train them on your shops operation, and how they can grow into great techs and keep our industry going.
Looking at how operations are going with an increasing amount of software required to do daily tasks whether it be estimating, frame measuring, paint mixing or repair procedure lookup, our industry is on the digital upward trend and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. The next generation of technicians will be much more computer literate and can balance the wide variety of software available to our industry. It’s in your best interest to allow them to flow with their natural gifts. Who knows? Maybe the old timer techs will pick up a thing or two.
We need to remove the restraints of traditional positions and training methods to allow a natural progression for an age of technician that works more confidently with new technologies and methods, than the previous generation. But again, as the employer you will need to control it at some point and weed out the bad and implement the good. It’s all a case by case scenario, but I wanted to let people know what I’m seeing and dealing with.
There’s much more to be said about searching for and retaining technicians and apprentices. Make sure to watch for my next blog. I will be sharing some inside wisdom from our school’s Skilled Trades & Apprenticeship Consultant.
Mike Kennelly Is the Program Coordinator and Professor for Auto Body Programs at Fanshawe College, located in London, Ontario, Canada. Mike owned a custom painting business for 5 years while working on getting his 310B to become a licensed collision and damage repair technician, working in an aluminum certified repair facility for 7 years. Followed by teaching in the college, where he has been for 5 years. Mike works with area industry representatives on numerous apprentice and post-secondary training initiatives.