We talk a lot about attracting new talent to our industry, but it seems to me that we have a serious PR problem that needs to be addressed before this can be accomplished. Every week, it seems that there is some news anchor “white knight” uncovering an unskilled mechanic who is bilking some single mother out of her rent money, or a news article that pops up on my homepage about a shop running some kind of scam to defraud the public.
We know that these scenarios are the absolute exception, but you sure don’t see news outlets doing articles about the thousands of customers you and other reputable shop owners have served and satisfied over the years with expert vehicle repairs and top-notch customer service.
Here’s the thing: We might not be able to stop every hit piece about the auto repair industry, but there is one PR issue that we can all work together to improve upon. We have to be willing to address what is behind the all-too-frequent refrain I hear from female customers, “I am just worried that ‘they’ are taking advantage of me because I am a woman.”
You’re probably thinking I forgot about the concept with which I lead this article. I didn’t. My point is that if we want more students to choose auto repair as a career, we need to get more women on our side. To illustrate my point, I went to my friend and colleague Sarah “Bogi” Lateiner of the show “All Girls Garage” and asked her to retell a story she told me the first time we met, when I gave her a hard time for not wearing gloves on her show.
According to Bogi, male viewers of her show didn’t believe she was a real technician if she did not get her hands dirty. She went on to say, “The first thing people do when I tell them I am a technician is they look at my hands for evidence.” Of course, her hands are not dirty off set because she knows the risks and, more to the point, turning a wrench does not keep her from being a woman. She is very serious about this industry, its image and young technicians of both sexes getting the message that this is a high-tech industry with lots of jobs for intelligent would-be techs.
Image is Everything
Women are arguably the most influential group in our industry. Not only do they make many of the purchasing decisions when it comes to auto repair, they are also pivotal in setting children’s perceptions regarding various career choices — especially in their formative years. If women have a low opinion of technicians, it will be an uphill battle for today’s youth to find a way into our shops as employees of the future.
To help counter this industry’s negative PR, how about getting involved in your community? Invite a women’s group, or your school’s girl or boy scouts troop into your shop, and show them around. Explain what you do and how the vehicle repair process works, and have them meet your technicians. Not only will you be marketing your business and shedding positive light on our industry, you just may be helping to nurture the next male or female technician in your area. We don’t have time to waste. Get moving to do your part to help elevate our industry’s image. Together, we can make a difference.