As many dealerships celebrate better-than-predicted sales numbers late this winter and forecasts predicting that trend to continue through spring, many are still scrambling to find qualified technicians to fill service bay requests.
A technician works on a generator at the RV Training Center. With no shortage of sales, many dealerships struggle to keep up with repairs as technician jobs grow competitive.
Hank Schrock, owner of Elkhart, Ind.-based Total Value RV, which was recently named the top Hoosier Class A dealer by Statistical Surveys for 2014, is projecting an even better 2015, but at the same time, the dealership is strained to find enough qualified technicians to fill the company’s 11 service bays.
While Schrock said the techs he has have kept up with the workload, he wouldn’t mind having about four more to comfortably keep up with the dealership’s service needs.
“I need four more techs to fill (up the bays), and I could fill them up and have the work to do it,” Schrock said. “There’s so many jobs right now, it’s hard to get them here in Elkhart because you could basically go anywhere right now and get a manufacturing job.”
The competition, Schrock says is not among other dealerships, but with manufacturing jobs, which are in high-demand in the Elkhart-area right now.
In February, Elkhart Development Corp. President and CEO Dorinda Heiden-Guss stressed the need for diversity in the county’s employment ranks, noting recent expansions into Southern Michigan by manufacturers Thor and Forest River to dip into new populations.
“(The manufacturers) are going outside of Elkhart to try to get a different (work) pool,” Schrock said.
Schrock is not alone in dealing with a competitive market place when it comes to technicians.
As Texas and Oklahoma-based RV Station gears up for what he hopes will be a banner season, President Cannon Combs said the market for techs is always a concern in Texas and other oil-rich areas, where dealerships wage a constant battle to keep technicians from leaving for tech jobs in the oil industry.
“The last few years in Texas with all the fracking going on, they’re making so much more money in the (oil) fields,” he said.
The solution for both dealers has come through competitive pay to hang onto long-term employees.
Combs said that despite the pressure from the oil industry, RV Station has remained “flush with techs” because they focus on keeping long-term employees rather than rely on aggressive pay with temporary or seasonal fly-by-night employment.
Schrock tries to take the same approach with his techs, which are flat-rate paid with an option to pick up “flag time” or bonus wages through extra work.
“I always like flag time because it allows you to make your raises whenever you feel like you want to make a raise,” he said. “You just hustle to work a few more hours. The mentality in Elkhart is that ‘I can go get a job for $20-$25 at a manufacturing facility,’ so it’s tough to get good technicians.”