Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the 2012 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) in Chicago. It’s an excellent event held every year that allows all the parties involved in the nearly $240 billion automotive aftermarket industry to discuss trends and issues affecting our industries. The good thing about this environment is that it allows all of us to look at the total industry and see what issues cross markets and what other markets are doing to cope with the changes.
The event always includes a report from William A. Strauss of the Chicago Federal Reserve. This is one of my favorite parts of GAAS because it allows me to catch up on the economy from a trusted source. The good news for us aftermarket folks is that the economy is not only growing but our segment is growing, too. While the economic growth is not as robust as we had hoped, it’s still continued, steady growth. Considering what’s going on around the world in many economies, we should be glad with growth!
GAAS always has many different speakers, and this year was no exception. Probably the best part about the gathering is that all the proceeds from the event and the yearly efforts go toward awarding scholarships to young people interested in careers in the automotive aftermarket. This year was no exception, and the organization was able to raise more than $105,000. The funds are awarded to young students based on merit, and a comprehensive application process and group of reviewers ensure that the most deserving get an opportunity to study our great field.
That’s the beauty of our business: Regardless of a student’s interest, we have a place for them. There are places in our industry for office workers and journeymen. If their interests are mechanical or technical, we need them.
I guess that brings me to the headline of this column. What are you doing to get the younger generation interested in this business? Vehicles aren’t going to stop breaking, and the technology in those vehicles just keeps growing.
The average age of people working in the automotive aftermarket sector is getting higher. We need to put more focus on getting younger people interested in this business.
Kids love computers. The good news is that many vehicles now have more than one onboard. Communication devices are being integrated into vehicles at a staggering rate. Telematics is coming faster than anyone realizes. Someone is going to need to be able to fix this stuff! I can assure you, it isn’t going to be me.
The younger generation needs to realize that their skills are needed here. The best way to get this message out is for us to get involved. Pick an organization or group and get involved. Speak at career nights or partner with a local school. Sure it takes time, but it will pay off for the future of our industry and our own individual interests.
We all enjoyed it and they can, too. We just need to let them know how much fun it is.