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SLIM PICKINGS

Column by CHELSEA STEBNER

I was chatting with a recruitment specialist friend, who explained to me the reasons behind the people shortage in our world. It’s not only COVID that has affected this crazy shortage that we’re all experiencing. It’s many things. Jobs requiring “in-person” help are the hardest to fill. I mean, after many people spent two years on government income, becoming familiar with a routine where they aren’t required to leave house—a job that you can work from home while wearing your pyjamas sounds a bit nicer to some than having to get out of the house and step foot in the real world.

When COVID hit, many baby boomers simply decided to retire. The wage employers can afford to pay employees, with the increasing costs of doing business, profit margins are getting even smaller than they were before. I’m sure there are many more factors; but those are certainly contenders. Our industry has witnessed a steadily shrinking skilled labour force for several years. The skilled labourers of the collision repair industry are aging; and, with the increasing requirements of specialized training and ever-changing technology, lots of our older workers are ready to step aside. The young up-and-comers? Their parents and their guidance counsellors are sending them to university and completely bypassing the trades.

Immediately in front of us though, are vehicles to repair, and a lack of warm bodies responding to all our help wanted ads. So, what’s a guy or a girl to do? How creative are you getting in trying to hire? Where are you looking? Are you poaching from other shops? Are you keeping employees who aren’t really “there” simply because you need a body?

We are trying all sorts of things, learning, making mistakes along the way. We have hired people with experience and failed at it. Having technical experience is great but not at the expense of refusing to follow process and ensuring the rest of the team knows what the heck is going on.

The foundation of our business is communication—communication with all our stakeholders: our customers, our insurance companies, our vendors, and within our team and our building, to ensure that every vehicle is fixed properly and safely. Back to the drawing board with unskilled labourers—it’s about time to tap into the youth just starting in the workforce. If we have someone that has an attitude of openness and willingness to learn, we can build that person into the role. The biggest hurdle in this case might be our team. When we are busy, with so much on the go, impatience runs high and we need and want everything right away to get the jobs done. Throw the supply chain issues into the mix and it could be a recipe for the perfect storm. Or it could be an opportunity to have our team step into their leadership roles and mentor a young person to fit in with our crew and create positive change.

It starts out with setting the stage, communicating with our team and ensuring that they are part of the solution to creating a positive experience and helping to build a strong team player.

Throughout the last few years, our motto has been and will continue to be “do the next right thing” and if we want this industry to survive and thrive, we will keep doing the next right thing.

The skilled labourers of the collision repair industry are aging; and, with the increasing requirements of specialized training and ever-changing technology, lots of our older workers are ready to step aside. The young up-and-comers? Their parents and their guidance counsellors are sending them to university and completely bypassing the trades.

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