In a time when labor shortages are leaving many job openings unfilled, dealerships have had to compete for employees at every position. What Dave Wright Nissan-Subaru in Hiawatha, Iowa, is doing to recruit workers is simple: creating talent from within.
The Tech 120 Program is an all-expenses-paid technician recruitment and development program designed to help interested applicants with limited experience eventually become a master technician within the dealership’s main shop.
Sydney Wright, director of hiring and training, told Automotive News that the program began two years ago after the dealership identified a need to train local techs.
“We have people in the area that didn’t think they could be a technician or be successful because they figured they had to go to school or have experience, and they didn’t have any of that,” Wright said.
The total program can be completed in less than four years and consists of seven levels.
“When it comes to the time frame, that’s really dependent on the person,” Wright said. “You can go through it quicker if you have the skills and you take the time and when you come in to work you’re focused and ready to go.”
The first level, known as the express level, lasts about six months. It involves training in vehicle health inspection, oil changes and tire rotations; employees earn $12 an hour.
The second and third levels are full express and express team lead, respectively. Both positions include a $500 tool bonus and pay $13 to $15 an hour.
Full express lasts around six months and includes training on filters, battery inspections and tire repairs. Express team lead takes approximately 90 days and consists of training replacements and assisting main shop technicians.
The fourth level is junior technician, which can last from nine to 12 months. It pays $15 to $17 an hour, plus another $500 tool bonus. Responsibilities include used-vehicle inspections, maintenance repairs and light warranty work. Wright said during this stage the dealership pays for the junior technician to attend Nissan and Subaru trainings.
After completing that level and the manufacturer training, employees move on to the service technician phase. For level five, employees complete some of their ASE training and begin to work on intermediate diagnostics and repairs.
This stage lasts nine to 12 months; employees are paid $50,000 to $60,000 annually.
The second-to-last level is experienced technician. In this phase, employees are paid $75,000 to $85,000 per year and are responsible for all customer-pay and warranty work. Similar to the previous level, this phase also lasts nine to 12 months.
The program culminates with the employee being promoted to master technician, which can pay as much as $120,000 a year. The employee is responsible for diagnostics and repair work.
“You’re the master technician. You do all the heavy-duty work and any work that the experienced technicians can’t quite do yet,” Wright said. “You’ll also help train all the technicians … and get them to the level that you’re at.”
About a dozen employees have started the program, Wright said, with three so far advancing to the main shop. The program has helped the dealership recruit and retain candidates they otherwise might not have considered.
“It’s been a huge tool in helping us recruit some of those mechanically inclined students,” Wright said, “or people that just don’t think they can do it because they lack experience.”