Recently, a news item came across my desk that piqued my interest. And, while it barely made a ripple across the aftermarket "news" landscape, I found it rather compelling.
This was an announcement about Automotive Career Week, and when I saw it, I was quite impressed. The designated week was October 24th through the 29th, and the governors of 14 states had thrown their support completely behind this initiative, officially proclaiming the last week of October as "Automotive Career Week" in each of their states on an annual basis.
"This is a chance to share our experiences about this rewarding profession with these young people; we hope that many will end up deciding on a career in our industry," proclaimed an official participating in the event. As I read the entire release, I realized what a sincere effort this was, but I also realized something very disturbing: This event had nothing to do with our beloved independent aftermarket, and everything to do with OE dealers.
That's right, Automotive Career Week is a program sponsored by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and is not affiliated in any way, shape or form with any part of the automotive aftermarket. Hooray for them. Shame on us.
That's not to say there aren't efforts being made by some to try to attract new talent into the independent aftermarket. Anyone who knows Steve Hoellein, President of Felt Auto Parts in Ogden, UT, knows firsthand how passionate individuals can make a difference in this process. And, in last month's issue of Counterman, editor Brian Cruickshank penned an article about the tremendous relationship between UniSelect USA/MAWDI and local school Alfred State College. The entire MAWDI team are to be commended for such an enterprising program, and the positive impact it has on students and the industry. These people and their companies do yeomen's work in an effort to attract students to our industry.
But, where's the love? How is it that a national association like NADA recognizes the need to attract new talent, and coordinates and administers a turnkey program that can be easily implemented by every single one of its members at the critical local level, and our industry continues to struggle with this same agenda? NADA provides its members with a kit offering guidance on organizing an effective career event. They've built an entire website to further support the effort at www.nada.org/careers. Check it out. It's impressive.
Our industry has done things to address the need of marketing ourselves to students who seek a viable, interesting and challenging career path. There's nothing, however, nearly as comprehensive and impressive as what NADA has done for its dealership members. This is not a criticism of our efforts thus far, but rather a challenge to the industry: It's time to step up and coordinate a true "career path" program to implement in a cohesive and comprehensive, turnkey manner.
The threat of the OE dealer may not be so much the amount of business they're able to wrestle away from our parts and service providers, but instead the amount of career-minded, bright, young professionals they wrestle away from our industry. In the long run, that's the biggest tragedy of all.