In our 2022 Distribution Preview in the January issue of AMN/Counterman, aftermarket leaders talk about some of the key issues affecting the industry, and discuss their plans, goals and expectations for the year ahead.
This year, we added several fun “Lightning Round” questions that you won’t want to miss.
Here’s our Q&A with Lauren Beaulieu, vice president, Professional marketing for Advance Auto Parts, Carquest and Worldpac.
AMN/CM: Our industry’s technical skills gap (and tech shortage) has been labeled as a huge challenge. But, there are some great long-term opportunities for young people in the automotive aftermarket right now, especially in the area of emerging technology, which is going to require that “next-level” tech. How can we better put our industry in the spotlight, and get young students excited about automotive?
LB: First, this is an exciting industry! Technicians are getting to work with complex vehicle systems every day and the technology is constantly evolving. From our perspective as a supplier, we believe it’s our obligation to provide professional customers with the latest tools and resources to stay ahead of the curve on these emerging technologies. For example, our Supplier and Training Expo (STX) led by Worldpac that is taking place in Orlando this March will feature multiple training sessions on EVs and ADAS, as well as opportunities to learn more about the parts and tools needed to support repair of these vehicles. These sessions are among more than 250 technical and management-focused courses led by top OE instructors and leading trainers from Worldpac Training Institute and Carquest Technical Institute.
We have prioritized connecting with others across the industry who share our passion for educating aspiring technicians on careers in the aftermarket. We’re proud of our long-term partnership with TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit that champions students and young adults through education and into aftermarket careers. Additionally, we are providing scholarships to Advance team members and several hundred students from local technical schools to attend STX. These individuals are excited about the industry and looking to expand their knowledge, and we are delighted to present them with an opportunity to learn from top instructors.
AMN/CM: Does your organization currently participate in any programs to help combat the tech-shortage issue? If so, tell us about it.
LB: Since 2016, we have been a strong advocate of TechForce. One program we’re specifically involved in is their peer network, launched this past year. We’re providing MotoVisuals’ database of repair animations so students and other users can gain valuable insight into the tools technicians use to communicate vehicle repairs to customers. We are also launching a TechNet jobs portal, which will connect our partner shops to talented technicians across the country who are looking for work. And, in 2021, we announced a $200,000 commitment to Wake Technical Community College to develop a recruitment initiative to increase student diversity in their automotive systems technology and collision repair programs.
With the average age of vehicles increasing, more parts will be needed to keep these vehicles on the road. This will expand the professional business, but shops are also going to need more technicians to support DIFM customers. We believe these programs, along with additional education about the viable careers and opportunities available to technicians, will help address the shortage of technicians in our industry.
AMN/CM: As advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and other emerging technology becomes more prevalent on new vehicles, it will require the brightest minds to service and repair them. How can we better position this challenge as an opportunity for the parts and service segments of the aftermarket?
LB: As an industry, we need to remain agile. We must be prepared to support EVs and vehicles that are dependent on ADAS, while at the same time, providing parts and service to older vehicles. Our Professional customers should be able to rely on us to keep them abreast of trends, tools and the training necessary as they continue to service a wide range of vehicles. We’ll be making this a top priority, especially as the electrification and ADAS categories continue to become major growth contributors.
I would also mention this increases the importance of Right to Repair for our industry. As systems become more complex, we need to ensure that professional shops have access to critical data that helps repair vehicles. We will continue to advocate for Right to Repair with industry partners.
AMN/CM: What phrase describes your “words to live by?”
LB: Be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. Learn, evolve and grow. I believe that self-reflection and a continued focus on learning new things is important for us to move forward and be our very best selves.
AMN/CM: What is your best icebreaker at a networking reception?
LB: I like to ask several questions. I’m always curious to learn how someone started in the industry, and what they love most about their role and the industry itself.
AMN/CM: What is your dream car, or favorite vehicle you’ve owned?
LB: My Jeep Wrangler Willys is incredibly fun to drive, both on and off-road.