Training and Technology by Rob Ingram

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Good apprentices are more important than ever to the success of a service shop. Photo: Shutterstock

Today your shop’s systems and procedures impact everything, including your apprentices.

There was a time when many shops brought on apprentices simply to fix cars. They’d start them off at minimum wage and train them to do oil changes and brake servicing before gradually learning to do more complex servicing work.

If the shop had good processes and procedures in place, that technician would likely stay and become a journeyman, earning a good living. And as a shop owner/manager, if you found a good, proficient technician you were incentivized to keep them because good techs were exceedingly hard to find.

More complex

Today the situation is even more challenging, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that modern vehicles are so much more complex than those in the past, requiring those techs to be even more proficient and in a wider range of areas as well. Alongside that, customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been.

As an industry, it has never been more important to not only find the right people to begin with but to provide them with good pay, good benefits and the ability to advance. This means taking the time to invest in them beyond setting them up to do oil changes and brake servicing.

Whether we like it or not, technology is an integral part of a successful shop today. We rely on our shop management software for everything from tracking work orders and labour hours to deferred service work, appointment scheduling and performing inspections.

Today, if your shop isn’t doing digital inspections, it is the exception rather than the rule and not in a good way.  Customers expect transparent communication via email, text, photo and videos, and what better way to harness the power of this technology by training your apprentices to use it.

No assumptions

You can’t assume, that as soon as you hire a young apprentice from trade school, they are going to be proficient at doing digital inspections, even though they have likely grown up with technology. You have to show them how it works and how the systems and procedures in the shop are done and make them feel a part of it.

We’ve seen it time and again, where shop makes an effort to hire an apprentice or technician, only to see them leave a few months down the road because poor systems and procedures make it difficult for them to do the work that’s required, and the environment doesn’t support them. As a result, they either leave for another shop or a different industry.

Given the tight margins many shops have to contend with today and the fact that automotive technology is changing so fast now, when we find good apprentices, we must do everything we can to train and keep them. Technology is the future of our industry but so are those who are trained to properly use it.

Rob Ingram owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont. You can reach him at [email protected].


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