Human Resources: Help Us Help You

AutoJournal

Eager to learn, today’s top students could be tomorrow’s top auto industry professionals.
(Photo: Shutterstock)

By Todd Bourgon

The TADA has in place a strategy designed to cultivate interest in a career in the auto industry, at the dealership level. But in order for this strategy to have success, we need your help.

As TADA’s Ontario Education Coordinator, Dave Fraser travels the province, he is bridging the gap between Ontario dealers and their future employees – high school, college and university students.

The fact that we need to think today about where the business managers, service advisors, technicians, etc. of the future will come from, is no surprise. That’s why the TADA is following through on a strategy to promote our industry within the province of Ontario.

But preparing future generations for a career in the auto industry requires teamwork. “Our goal is to benefit the industry,” Fraser explains, “But I can’t do it as an individual, and the TADA can’t do it on it’s own. We need dealers’ buy-in and we need their support.”

Practical help

What can dealers do to help the TADA accomplish our goal of cultivating an interest in the auto industry? Plenty!

The TADA has asked Dave Fraser to travel throughout the province of Ontario in order to meet with as many schools and dealerships as possible. Would you welcome a visit?

His mission is twofold: To get students interested in a career at the dealership level, and to encourage dealers to reach out to local schools and students.

As the “bridge builder” between dealers and schools, Fraser looks at which schools are in a given dealership’s area, and how a dealer can start building relationships with local school boards, colleges or universities.

A simple step? Perhaps. But one that is often overlooked by most dealerships. “I’ve been to a number of dealerships where there’s a high school literally down the street,” Fraser explains, “and they’ve never thought of reaching out.”

We know that today’s dealers are busy – too busy to think about forging relationships with local schools. That’s where the TADA’s resources, and Fraser’s expertise, come into play. “I might suggest offering a class tour at the dealership,” he says. “Or perhaps taking on a co-op student or an intern.”

As a dealer, have you thought about setting up a table for career day at a local school? If it’s a college or university, have you thought about hosting an information session or participating in a career fair? Or when schools plan employer round tables or employer panels, have you reached out to participate? Most dealers have not.

“We’ve got ideas we can share with both educators and dealers,” Fraser explains. “My goal is to show both how we can work together. I then become the bridge that brings them together.”

One size does not fit all

During his many visits to dealerships and schools throughout Ontario, Fraser has discovered that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. “Something that works in downtown Toronto won’t necessarily work in Sudbury,” he explains. “The two have very different cultures, and a lot also depends on the teachers and the support we can get at the local school level. So part of my job is assessing what’s going to work for the individual dealer and for the local schools and colleges.”

Getting feedback from a variety of departments at a dealership is critical as Fraser structures his solutions. “That’s why I like to do a tour of each dealership when I visit,” he says. “Besides speaking with the dealer principal or the GM, I like to talk to the service manager, the people working in parts, and the techs working in the bays. They almost always have different ideas and different experiences.

“A lot of the men and women working on the sales and service side have very different backgrounds and experiences in the industry than the dealer principal has had. The latter have often grown up in the environment, but they didn’t necessarily go through college and then an apprenticeship and then an internship. So they don’t always understand the process. This means that sometimes they need to be educated about the different ways people come into the industry.”

Online resources

One of the ways we’d like to encourage our members to reach out to young recruits is via the CarsAndJobs.com website, which was designed and built by the TADA to disseminate a broad range of auto industry-related information. More importantly, CarsAndJobs.com is a marketplace for job and career opportunities in the auto industry – and we’re proud to be able to say that it’s a big success. In fact, since February, we have had over 7,000 job applications, and we have 600-800 job postings on average each month.

Planning

One of the keys to successfully dealing with this challenge is planning. “We need to think about planning, and strategic planning at that,” Fraser explains. “A lot of dealers are simply posting jobs as part of a Band-Aid solution when an employee leaves or retires. What they need to be doing instead is looking ahead, looking more long term.”

In the end, the goal is to look for solutions that reach beyond any needs a dealer may have today, with a view to successfully handling human resources challenges for the next few years or decades.

Perhaps Fraser puts it best when he says, “Our goal is to get dealers more comfortable with the idea that they need to be taking a more proactive approach. It’s not about simply posting ‘help wanted’ ads. It’s about having a solid plan that creates interest in our industry not only now, but for many years to come.”

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