By Paul Mac Donald, UASA Executive Director
It’s a critical question in most industries today: how do you find skilled and well-trained employees? The unemployment rate continues to fall as the demand for talented individuals rises. In the appliance repair business it’s an especially important issue, as technology evolves and becomes more complex, the demand heats us for technicians who are fluent in the latest product iterations. As I’ve written in the past, service businesses are judged by the quality of their employees—their knowledge, their ability to solve problems, and their ability to serve customers with patience and a smile. Getting the right people is key.
So how do you find them? One place to start is with a reputable technical trade school. There are many out there that graduate qualified technicians in a variety of fields. Typically the programs are two years or longer, and are excellent resources for finding skilled candidates with a current understanding of the latest technology. Reach out to a school in your area—or ask for a list of their best students to recruit for your organization. For a current list, visit www.unitedservicers.com.
Another place to look is Vet2Tech, a program that connects veterans who have mechanical and electrical backgrounds with opportunities in industries such as residential appliances, commercial food equipment, HVAC/R and manufacturing. It’s a mutually beneficial approach to sourcing quality staff: filling shortages with individuals with existing skill sets and strong capacity to learn new things. Vet2Tech is funded by donations from employers and individuals and has a database of over 1,100 employer partners. To learn more, visit vet2tech.org.
Training Today and Tomorrow
Of course, finding the right candidates is just the beginning. As technology and processes change, you need to make sure your staff is kept up to date. That means quality training. You really can’t understate the importance of ensuring your staff is knowledgeable in the latest trends and tech—you also can’t underscore enough how important it is to develop a culture of continuous learning in your organization. Learning the right skills today is essential, but having the desire and the ability to learn the next phase of equipment and appliances over the next three to five years will keep your team among the industry leaders.
The first line of training is your in-house systems, approaches and processes. This is vital for ensuring a cohesive team that operates efficiently. Having technicians at the same levels of expertise will enable your staffing systems to remain flexible, since technicians can be exchanged for one another. When staff need additional training, look to programs such as Fred’s Appliance Academy, which offers hands-on technical training covering many aspects of appliance repair. Fred’s also offers important education on non-technical aspects of appliance repair, including customer service and relevant computer skills.
Home study courses are another option, such as Uncle Harry’s Appliance Repair School or ICS Canada Appliance Repair Program. These allow you to learn at home, with access to experts when you need assistance. While useful, programs such as these require a great deal of discipline and offer limited hands-on experience, which is invaluable.
Learn from the Best at ASTI 2016
One of the best ways to maintain training and skills is to learn from the most experienced experts with specialized knowledge of each brand and manufacturer. One way to do this is to attend ASTI, the Annual Service Training Institute held by the United Servicers Association. Each year, ASTI brings together the best in the industry to share their knowledge on a variety of subjects. It’s a rare opportunity to have broad access to experts from across the spectrum of appliance repair, small business resources, customer service gurus, IT, marketing and more. ASTI 2016 is being held from February 14 to 18 at Deauville Beach Resort in Miami, Florida, and 18 of the top appliance manufacturers will be in attendance, providing hands-on training and tools for success.
The bottom line is that there are many talented appliance repair technicians and future technicians out there, you just have to know where to look, and how to continually support their skill development.