Filling the Void

Dec 2, 2009

Ever think about building your company’s team as if it were a pro sports team? Maybe you should. Recruiters for the best college and professional sports teams scout out ball fields and school yards around the globe to find bright future stars ready to help win championships. If you looked at filling out your staff in a similar fashion, you’d be scouting out the best schools; looking to build your own championship team.

It’s no secret that having high caliber employees is a key factor in maintaining a viable business. A business’ employees are often the first point of contact for your customers, a large part of your company’s knowledge base and the team that sells and installs the products on the shelves. On the manufacturing side, it’s the employees that apply innovation and knowledge, often peppered with gut intuition, to produce the next round of sought after products. The importance of finding the right people to round out your team is one of the most important tasks for management.

Finding someone to fill an opening on your staff isn’t always easy. It’s certainly not as easy as simply finding warm bodies to fill the empty seats in the office. Finding solid, dedicated, dependable and well-trained candidates requires careful consideration. When reading resumes it can be easy to get caught up in the fancy writing and well-placed power words. Candidates with formal training might lack exposure to the products and modifications found on many of the vehicles common to the performance aftermarket. Someone who’s always been around “old cars” all their life might be lost when it comes to the sophisticated, computer-controlled engines, modern fuel injection and the high technology found on many of today’s vehicles.

When writing this article, unemployment was continuing to grow and was at its highest level in years. More people in the job market might seem to make it an employer’s market with multiple candidates for every opening. While that might be the case, choosing the best trained employee isn’t always easy.

So where does one go to find their next employee?

Recruiting Options

It’s an unfortunate fact that in schools across the country, vocational education programs are being stripped away to free money for other programs. Computer labs have replaced auto shops in many high schools. Getting formal training in automotive technology is rapidly becoming something students are left to do on their own. That leaves automotive businesses with fewer hiring options.

One of the best ways to find well-rounded employees is to recruit them from vocational and trade schools. Two of the best known automotive technical schools are Universal Technical Institute, a nationwide provider of technical education training for students seeking careers as professional automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians; and WyoTech, which offers degree and diploma programs in the field of automotive, diesel, collision refinishing, motorcycle and marine technology, as well as construction trades. In addition, WyoTech offers advanced training programs in applied service management; advanced diesel; advanced automotive diagnostics; street rod and custom fabrication; motorsports chassis fabrication and high performance power trains; trim and upholstery technology. The results of great programs such as those offered by vocational schools like UTI and WyoTech are graduates with a great general knowledge and areas of specialty training to suit the various needs of a host of situations (retail, installation, management, etc.).

Establishing a solid foundation is important. Dean Tremain, Divisional Director Career Services for WyoTech notes that, “After going through the Automotive Technology core program which teaches students the skills necessary for a broad range of entry-level technician positions, WyoTech offers two programs targeted to the performance aftermarket. The High-Performance Powertrains program provides the student with up-to-date specialty training in many high-performance applications of diesel and automotive upgrades. Students receive training in engine block design, rotating and reciprocating assemblies, fuel injection and management systems, ignition control systems, systems upgrades, electronic engine management and much more.”

Larry Adams, a die-hard drag racing and performance enthusiast and owner of AAMCO Transmission Centers in Redlands and Cathedral City, Calif. notes, “Though our technicians spend the bulk of their time performing routine service, in today’s economy people are looking to make the most of performance and gas mileage. We actually have about 50 percent of our customers ask about how they can increase their performance and nearly everyone wants to improve gas mileage – especially customers with tow rigs for getting their toys out to the track or river. We’ve hired a couple technicians from trade schools and it really makes sense to have someone who is trained to handle the day-to-day work and be capable of tackling the performance work we do.”

Getting Started

Most vocational training institutions offer job placement assistance for their students and graduates. They also work with local employers to help the right graduate. They offer everything from simple job postings and online resume searches to career fairs and the career counselors are there to help make the process easy for everyone. On a day-to-day basis, students rely on their campus resources to help guide their training and to help them land the right job when they are ready to graduate. Unlike working with a professional recruiter, the students or employers don’t have to pay a premium for the school’s placement services.

According to Dennis Rudolph, Education Manager at Universal Technical Institute’s Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Campus, “UTI has a graduate employment services department that can be contacted, and job posts are made available to students. We have many success stories that involve students that are now working on John Force’s funny car teams, for Richard Petty Driving Experience, on local super truck NASCAR teams, BAE, monster truck teams, and the list goes on.”

“WyoTech makes it easy for employers to meet their staffing needs,” says Tremain. “By contacting the WyoTech Career Services department at the local campus, employers can access a wide variety of services available to assist them in finding their next great employee.”

One company that is a huge advocate of scouting for talent at vocational schools is Shelby Automotive. Shelby has built close relationships with the career placement department at its nearest WyoTech campus. Gary Patterson at Shelby Automobiles Inc. had this to say, “WyoTech grads have proven to be valuable assets for Shelby Automobiles Inc. Right out of college, they bring all of the necessary technical capabilities along with excellent people skills and management training. This gives us greater flexibility in job placement and makes is easy for them to fit into the team. We have seven WyoTech grads working in several areas of our company.”

Building relationships with trade or technical schools can be very helpful. By establishing a relationship with the career placement office at nearby campuses you’ll learn when upcoming career fairs and other events are being help, offering the opportunity to recruit employees at the campus.

Reaching out to vocational schools to find your next employee might sound like a lot of work – especially when you’ve got an inbox filled with completed applications but when you are proactive about building the best team possible the results can be well worth the effort.