Tire Discounters Hits On Winning Tech Recruitment Formula
Tire dealerships partnering with technical schools to identify, develop and recruit young auto service technicians is not necessarily a new idea. But it isn’t always easy to find a winning formula.
Here’s how Tire Discounters, one of the fastest-growing, independently owned tire store chains in the United States, is working with a well-known trade school to cultivate its next generation of service techs.
Over the past year, the dealership - which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and operates nearly 140 locations throughout six states - has experienced a tremendous amount of success partnering with Lincoln Tech’s location in Indianapolis, Ind.
Tire Discounters initially forged a relationship with Lincoln Tech’s Nashville, Tenn., branch before entering the Indianapolis market more than one year ago. (Lincoln Tech has more than 20 locations across 14 states.)
“Lincoln Tech has a well-known reputation and attracts students from multiple markets where we also have a strong presence,” says Chelsea Caines, the dealership’s talent acquisition manager.
“We wanted to build on that relationship” in the form of scholarships, shop equipment donations and other investments.
Tire Discounters - whose founder, Chip Wood, was recently named MTD’s Tire Dealer of the Year - even outfitted an alignment training room at the school with equipment from one of its suppliers, Hunter Engineering Co. (Tire Discounters prides itself on being “the home of the free alignment.” The dealership hasn’t charged customers for the service since 1997!)
“We also spend time on campus to connect with students and show them what a career path (in automotive service) looks like and how we can support that,” says Caines.
The return on Tire Discounters’ investment has been overwhelmingly positive, she notes, adding that "the students coming out of the program are well-prepared for careers.
"Lincoln Tech not only gives them a great foundation” when it comes to automotive technology and mechanical proficiency. “It also prepares them to be professional.” (Students are graded on attendance and other real-world metrics, in addition to how well they change tires and turn wrenches.)
“We've placed graduates, as well as active students who are currently enrolled in the program” at multiple Tire Discounters stores.
Students who still attend classes at Lincoln Tech “usually work part-time as tire technicians and once they complete their degree, they work full-time as service technicians,” adds Caines. “Once they graduate, they can be placed anywhere across any of our markets.”
Crissy Niese, Tire Discounters’ senior vice president and chief customer officer, says there is a broader, philosophical purpose behind the Lincoln Tech partnership. (She adds that Lincoln Tech's facility is hosting in-person training again following Centers for Disease Control safety recommendations.)
Fewer young people are pursuing careers in the trades, “specifically the automotive trades,” she explains.
“It’s really important that we don’t get so wrapped up in the challenge of staffing technicians that we lose sight of how we can collectively build excitement about our industry. There are individuals who pay a lot of money to go for a full, four-year college degree and come out making $35,000 a year and are in a lot of debt.
“One of the beautiful opportunities with any technician trade school is to be able to work” while attending class “and also to be able to be in a trade school for anywhere from one to two years, depending on the specialty, and come out earning $50,000 to $60,000 a year - and maybe more, depending on how proficient they are,” she continues. (Tire Discounters' best technicians can make upwards of $100,000 a year.)
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for students - particularly high school students - to consider very viable, lucrative careers in automotive service, which is a high-growth sector.
“As we partner with the Lincoln Techs of the world, it’s important that we continue to (highlight) all of the excitement that we and our employees feel and let others see it, too.”