In this week’s episode of Beyond the Wrench, we are sitting down with Kevin Bednarek and Ryan Windfeldt to learn more about their (very different) industry experiences. Ryan is still in the automotive industry today working for a great shop, while Kevin didn’t have as much luck in the industry and is now working as a software engineer. We’re diving deep into both of their stories to find out a little bit more about why technicians are leaving the automotive industry.
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Jay: Kevin, what drove you into leaving the automotive industry?
Kevin: I was brought in as a light duty technician. However, I was doing work above a light duty technician, but not getting paid for it and not getting the promotion. I was getting pretty irritated, it was just poor management. The shop decided to introduce a night shift, and I did it. Most of the time, there weren’t cars to work on. They made it sound like it was going to be a great learning opportunity, but in reality all the difficult and learning opportunities were happening during the day. The night shift was just stuff that anybody could do, such as brakes, tires, etc. I was just flailing all alone working night shifts. Then, I finally decided to leave. I put in an application at a different dealership, and went in for an interview the next day. I got hired on the spot. However, there were a lot of questions I wish I would have asked.
Jay: What questions do you wish you would have asked?
Kevin: I found the service manager was kind of blowing a lot of smoke. He said everyone’s making crazy hours, and making a lot of money. I should have asked what’s the heavy duty and light duty split? I ended up not making any more money than I was at my previous shop, which was a huge bummer. I felt like it wasn’t an accurate reflection of what they told me. The interview was more of the manager trying to sell himself, and he barely asked me any questions. I wouldn’t say he was lying, but there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t portrayed accurately.
Jay: Ryan, do you feel like you had somebody to talk to at your old shop? Did they ever sit down and talk with you?
Ryan: Absolutely not. The only person I could go and talk to was the person who was implementing everything. We had an all hands meeting every quarter. We beat our plan by 40%. We were making the shop more money, but we weren’t seeing any pay increases. My final week there we had a meeting, and they had everybody there. They were congratulating us on how much we bounced back from COVID. We we’re making 80% more than last year, and decided because of that they were able to build a new dealership and get a new franchise. For the technicians wanting a raise, that means absolutely nothing to them.
Jay: How much of an impact does the union have?
Kevin: The union comes at a cost. You pay a certain amount every month that comes right out of your paycheck. Everyone besides the company I was at was getting paid a lot more. Even though they didn’t do a whole lot per hour. The union just said everyone gets paid this as a journeyman. I feel there was some transparency. I would say for me, the union worked out. I saw the union in action a couple of times. I feel like we actually used it which was nice because it felt like you actually had a voice. We pay this money to be in the union for a reason. When we’d have management complain about the union, we’d say we want something changed. They’re like, “Nope, this is what it says in the union contract, and we can’t do anything.” That’s where they would use it against us.
Jay: Ryan, what was it like when you found a shop who listened to you?
Ryan: The management seems to want to get stuff done and want to do whatever they can to help me get my job done. It’s definitely nice to feel more heard. They’re trying to institute a little more professionalism, and I’m all for that. When you’re running the sort of volume we are, you need processes in place.
Jay: Kevin, do you see yourself ever coming back into the automotive industry?
Kevin: If we can get it to a point where you’re treated well, I would consider it. I’m pretty new in software, and I’ve already been treated extremely well. You get really pigeonholed as a technician. You do one thing wrong, and people just think you’re dumb and the rest of your work sucks. People don’t assume that in other industries, and that’s been amazing already. I love cars, and I’m hoping stepping away is going to bring back my hobby. If the automotive industry is changing, and it looks like places are trending that way, then I wouldn’t have a problem coming back to the automotive industry.
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