Over the years, shop owners have heard time and time again to get involved in their local high schools’ automotive programs and to keep instructors up to date on industry needs. However, according to a recent Beyond the Wrench podcast from WrenchWay, engaging students at the high school level may not be soon enough.
“This day and age and as advanced as the vehicles are, we need to be just as advanced to engage these students to really build a good relationship,” said Christen Battaglia, director of strategic partnerships at WrenchWay. “We engage way too late in the game. If we’re just now engaging students at the high school level, we’ve missed huge opportunities… we need to engage at a minimum the middle school level.”
Visit local elementary and middle schools
Typically, field trips can be hard to get approval from the school. However, visiting the school can be just as influential.
“You’re not trying to talk them into a career when they’re in first grade, you’re trying to get them generally interested in the industry,” said Jay Goninen, president of WrenchWayand host of Beyond the Wrench podcast.
Battaglia suggested various ways to make the visit fun. One way is to park a couple of fun and exciting cars in the parking lot for students to see and climb into as well as take pictures and selfies. Conducting some sort of life skill demonstration such as changing the tire or checking the oil would also be beneficial and recommended.
Another way to make the visit fun would be to bring pizza or food to a classroom. Although this is usually more effective at the high school level, Battaglia noted.
Set up a competition
Everybody loves a competition. One such idea could be a spark plug competition amongst students.
Talk with your own team
During a shop meeting, shop owners can brainstorm creative ideas with their own technicians on ways to get students involved. Most likely, technicians may have teenagers or young children to be able to get direct feedback and input instantly.
Plus, it’s a great way to bring your team together and engage with your employees, Battaglia said.
Get on their phones
“We need to as an industry stop talking about these students in a negative way and start engaging them in the way they want to be engaged,” Battaglia said.
Since they love to be on their phones and social media, it’s time to meet them in the middle, and figure out a way to interact with them through their phones, even if that means via tick-tock or Instagram.
“It comes down to speaking their language,” Goninen said. “If their language happens to be TikTok or text messaging, I think there’s a lot of opportunities there.”