Personnel Profile: The Shortage of Qualified Technicians - BodyShop Business
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Personnel Profile: The Shortage of Qualified Technicians

How many collision repair journeymen does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one — but first you have to hire him.

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The shortage of qualified technicians is really no laughing matter. Last year, fewer than 5,000 entry-level technicians were hired from vo-tech schools to begin filling approximately 20,000 production personnel vacancies. With so many opportunities for employment, technicians can be selective. They don’t have to take the first job that comes their way or stick around in a job that’s going nowhere.

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As a shop owner, it’s important to know the needs of today’s production personnel — and what your competition is doing to entice them.

In this year’s Personnel Profile, we polled shop owners and managers on topics such as employee benefits, compensation methods and training opportunities to find out how they attract and retain qualified personnel and what you need to do to compete.

Median sales per month per estimator: $25,000
Median sales per month per administrative employee: $20,000
Median sales per month per production employee (bodymen or painters only): $11,666

Because the average may be skewed due to the volume of repairs at larger shops, another measure of the sales per month per employee
is the median, which is the middle figure (50 percent responded higher, 50 percent responded lower).

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Of the 70.6 percent of shop owners who reported attending or sending an employee to training, 85.2 percent enrolled in a manufacturer’s seminar or training class (both on and off site). Slightly more than 51 percent also enrolled in local jobber clinics. Though a large percentage did attend training sessions, most dedicated only one to five days to continued education during the past year.

From what source do you hire production personnel?
Though employee referrals remained the No. 1 method for hiring production personnel, more than 52 percent of this year’s respondents also noted the use of newspaper ads. Last year, only 32.2 percent reported running an ad in the newspaper to attract qualified production personnel.

Though only 1.2 percent of respondents said they employed the Internet as a recruiting tool, it signifies a change in the way the industry attracts potential candidates. Just two years ago, in our 1998 Industry Profile, no one reported using the Internet as a source.

Of those shops responding yes, 85.1 percent have at least one full-time bodyman, 79.2 percent have at least one full-time painter, 59.4 percent have at least one clean-up person, 43.6 percent have at least one combination painter/bodyman, 31.7 percent have at least one mechanic and 30.7 percent have at least one assembler.

More than 73 percent of respondents said they offer employee benefits. Which benefits do they offer?

Paid vacations

90.5%

Uniforms

75.4%

Medical coverage

68.3%

Paid training/education

66.3%

Paid sick days

44.8%

401k

39.7%

Dental care

30.2%

Paid funeral leave

25%

Disability

17.9%

Profit sharing

16.3%

Vision care

12.7%

Other benefits

11.1%

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Payday!

Most service-related industries — collision repair included — are struggling to hire and retain good employees. Some fast-food restaurants are even offering $10 an hour (to start) to attract employees. (Flipping burgers doesn’t sound so bad if you can afford to drive to work in a brand new car!)

According to Tony Passwater, an industry consultant and contributing editor to BodyShop Business, technician wages have been stagnant for a number of years. In some cases, they’ve even been declining.

That must change if the industry expects to attract qualified, motivated and dedicated candidates.

“Pay plans must provide the essentials for each employee. If they don’t, you won’t attract qualified employees,” says Passwater. “On the other hand, you can’t just capriciously throw money at the problem. A pay plan needs to be well-structured so it not only provides the essentials, but provides opportunities for advancement and career pathing.”

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Though alternative pay plans are out there, the majority of this year’s respondents reported sticking to more traditional ways of compensating production personnel. Only 25 percent said they use a different method or a combination of those listed.

Hourly wage only

27.7%

Flat rate only (% of billed hour)

21.1%

Salary only

10.3%

Hourly wage and commission

7.1%

Percentage of shop labor rate

4.9%

Salary plus commission

3.8%

Other/combination

25%

 

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