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For those in the industry already focused on improving the availability of qualified RV service technicians, the results of the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll should serve as yet another wakeup call.
The latest survey asked dealers to rate on a scale of one to 10 the service tech availability status in their areas, with one being “a complete lack of qualified personnel in your area” and 10 representing “an overabundance of techs at your disposal.”
A total of 83.1% of the responding dealers rated their situations at five or below; 65.6% were at four or below; 58.1% came in at three or below.
In other results:
* 68.8% feel tech shortages are getting worse
* 67.5% are retaining these employees for three years or less
* 64.3% are spending more lately to train their service employees
This all comes at a time when the industry has clearly taken a stand on the training issue and has been making some concerted strides in instructing and training RV service technicians.
The RVDA/RVIA Certification Testing Board has qualified hundreds of RV techs, and the RV Service Training Council (RVSTC) has enrolled more than 2,000 students in satellite courses since 2003. Still, the availability and quality of U.S. RV service personnel obviously remains a concern for many dealerships and service firms from coast to coast.
Here’s a glimpse at what industry people related in the essay portion of the electronic survey:
* “We must get the dealer principals to buy into a training program and not be afraid of losing employees to another dealer. Satellite is a good way of allowing training on site, but it does nothing for recruitment. Apprenticeship courses are becoming more available and dealerships need to support them.”
* “Tech shortage is at a very stressful level. We are trying to work with a local Vo-Tech school to set up a training curriculum to start our own in-house training program.”
* “They (service techs) are worse than hired guns. Someone pays an extra 75 cents an hour, and they cut tail and go.”
* “We are a smaller dealer, and unfortunately with limited staff, and we find it impossible to send service staff away for training or refresher courses in fear of falling behind the eight ball, so to speak. Most of the classes we have seen advertised have been quite a distance away and would have required several days out. That is just very difficult for us to deal with. I guess for some of us more online training would be helpful, as would generalized manuals that would show, maybe, newer ways of correcting problems.”
* “Unless we get more qualified techs, sales will be impacted with stories of maintenance service nightmares. RV ownership will be looked at as a liability because of the inability to get items repaired correctly. I think more intense regional training by the manufacturers needs to be implemented.”
* “It is difficult to get new people involved in this industry. We have been fortunate in being able to entice qualified, experienced techs from competitors by paying a little more or offering better benefits.”
* “I feel that we need to do a better job of getting to candidates earlier and letting them know about the opportunities in the RV industries. Vocational students, workers displaced through layoffs or factory workers who are looking for more variety in their jobs are perfect candidates to pursue. And we need to educate these folks as to what types of tasks they would be performing. Many who apply for openings are auto mechanics, and they are disappointed when they realize that they will be doing electrical work, carpentry, plumbing and whatever else needs to be done, as opposed to just turning a wrench.”
* “The shortage of technicians will haunt the RV industry, just as it will the auto, truck and marine industries. A very limited amount of students graduating from high schools, vocational colleges and technical schools show a desire for this field of work. If they are going to get their hands dirty, they want it to be in computers where the big bucks are.”
* “I think the RVIA training program in place helps make your in-house staff better. Where I see a need for improvement is to make our profession more mainstream. There are so many trades that we encompass in our industry, we are almost a niche market. An RV tech needs to have knowledge in plumbing, propane, appliance repair, electrical, audio/video, auto mechanics, carpentry, cabinetry and all sorts of floor coverings. To get these repairs done at your home, you would have to contract several different companies. Yet we expect an RV dealer to be able to facilitate all of these repairs. With that said, we do a really good job of it. But unless a candidate knows someone in the business or was brought up around this business, we as an industry are not even an afterthought. So, we try to find someone with some knowledge in some of these trades and train them in-house, which is now a lot easier with the programs we have to work with.”