Ryan and Rick Benton from Black’s Tire Service Inc. recently shared what their dealership is doing to attract and cultivate young auto service technicians.
“I think there is a common misconception that all millennials are lazy or don’t want to work hard and aren’t interested in our type of industry,” said Ryan. “We have to teach them and make ourselves known as a good option – because we are.
“We’re trying to grow our own techs,” many of whom come from diverse backgrounds, such as Thomas Powell, who started with Black’s Tire last year and aspires to run an alignment machine at one of the company’s retail outlets.
“I came here because I like the work,” says Powell, 25, who studied metallurgy in college. “I love working on cars.”
Will Edmunds, 23, wanted to be a state trooper when he was growing up. He earned a bachelors degree in criminal justice. But he never had the opportunity to work in that field – and has zero regrets.
“Near the end of my senior year, Brian Pierce, one of our region managers, approached me,” says Edmunds, who enjoys fixing up his own car in his spare time. “He saw that I had a passion for building things and taking things apart. I started on the bottom, changing tires and doing general service. I spent my first seven or eight months traveling around and observing people. We do a lot of shadowing and apprenticeships.”
Edmunds is now certified to perform alignments on both cars and commercial trucks. “I align everything from Toyota Priuses to crane carriers,” he says.
“People say to me, ‘You have a college degree. Why do you work in a tire store?’ It may not be glamorous, but I like it. I turned a hobby into a career.”
Jonathan Ransom, 39, has been with Black’s Tire for 14 years. Before that, he worked as a biologist. “I like to interact with people,” he says. “Working in a lab, I was by myself a lot.”
He learned the tire business “from the bottom up. My first day on the job, they put me on tire adjustments. I changed oil and tires. Then I bounced from store to store, soaking everything up like a sponge. I’m not a mechanic by trade. I knew when I came into this business that I had to learn as much about it as I could.”
Ransom now works as a region manager. His territory includes 10 Black’s Tire locations. “I don’t think people outside the automotive industry understand what kind of living you can make in it,” he says.
He also visits community colleges and talks to students about careers “not only in the tire business, but also careers here at Black’s Tire.”
Devin Mason, 22, is one of the dealership’s youngest techs. He met Black’s Tire owner Ricky Benton when the latter visited his high school auto service shop.
Mason started working at Black’s Tire in the evenings, on weekends and during summer breaks. He began as a tire changer and has since graduated to more complex assignments, like brake work and tire pressure monitoring system recalibrations.
“It was an adjustment” going from his high school program to working full-time in a real tire dealership, says Mason. But he loves his job and is looking forward to earning Automotive Service Excellence certification. “Making our customers happy is the best part of my day.”
"Right now a lot of our young guys are making things happen," Rick told MTD.
"There are a lot of great benefits" to a career in automotive service, according to Ryan. "You can make a good living. You can have a future. But you have to show them this. You have to think outside the box. There's a (tech) shortage now and it's only going to become a bigger and bigger problem."