Installer Shortage Reaches Near Crisis

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The shortage of installers in car audio has become critical in some cases where it is causing retailers to lose money.

Many retailers admit they are leaving business on the table because they don’t have the proper number of installers.  One store owner said his doors are closed at this point because of lack of an experienced installer.  Nearly all of about 15 retailers contacted said finding and keeping trained technicians is a problem.

Franchise chain Tint World said it could place 6 installers immediately if they were available.  “I’d say it’s definitely costing our industry business and costing growth,” said VP Dealer Operations/Vendor Manager Paul Pirro.  “We need a real technical school for our craft and to tell people that there it is a career. You can easily make $50,000 and even more on commission;  many people graduate from college and can’t make $50,000 a year.”

Car Tunes Stereo Center, Allen Park, MI, is short 3 installers for the 6-store chain.  “I had to cut back on advertising for Christmas…It would be a waste of money to be able to drive my sales and not have the installers to do the work,” said Mark Constantakis. He added, “I talk to other dealers and everyone is talking the same thing; short-handed. One guy tried to fly people in and then put them up at a hotel during remote start season.  He overbooked and had to fly in installers.”

Five-store chain Aspen Sound of Idaho said, “I definitely think it’s affecting business,” according to Keith Kirk Payne.  And Al DiMeo of Samm Sound in NJ agreed, “I think it’s reaching a crisis.”

Part of the problem is that some retailers are beginning to see business pick up since the recession.  “Things are getting a little better and it’s requiring some extra staffing,” said J.R. Stocks of 7- store chain Freeman’s Stereo Video in NC which said it’s in need of a couple of installers.

It should be noted that many professions are seeing a shortage in workers from construction to manufacturing.

For example in construction, many of the 2 million workers laid off during recession have since found other work or have retired, leaving a current shortage.  There are also critical shortages in skilled manufacturing workers, and in health care, agriculture and technology.

But here’s an example of one way to manage the problem. It requires viewing installer training as an ongoing cost of doing business.

Two years ago, Columbus Car Audio, with 2 stores in Ohio, was short on installers and couldn’t find one.  So it began taking in younger, untrained applicants that simply had experience working with tools. “It’s been extremely successful,” said Owner Todd Hays. “We’re constantly taking applications and if we feel this kid might be someone worth looking at, we may bring him in for a training period and see if it works out.”

The trainee typically shadows the shop manager or assistant manager for a time, until he’s allowed to do some minor work..

“We just say we’re going to take a little hit on payroll for a few months and make an investment…We’ll know and he’ll know if he will work out in 30 to 60 days.

Source: CEoutlook

Photo via Mobile Solutions

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  1. I see this as a huge problem that has been looming for a long time now, and it starts at the store level. To many people are just clerking customers and not putting any effort into selling the product that makes them money. They are fighting internet sales and it has become to easy to just give in to that and not sell themselves and their business.
    I installed for 15 years and made lots of money doing it but as soon as the shops couldn’t make the money to keep the “top tier” installers we have no choice but to move on. Now that Im at the manufacturing level I’m seeing this grow ever worse and worse each year.

  2. My company (DRIG) or Done Right Installation Group is a national installation company primarily installing GPS and driver monitoring systems to companies with fleets. However, I wonder if retailers might benefit by being able to outsource some install work to our local techs in order to focus more on their sales? If we can help, I would love to assist and a map of local coverage can be provided as we constantly update our coverage territories. If you are a experienced installer and need work we would also be interested in talking with you!

    DRIG INC – 707-701-3744

  3. I’ve been owner/operator at my shop in Miami, FL for many years. It’s a different ball game down here. I’d be willing to sell off my 1 location for the right guaranteed salary either as a manager/installer or lead installer for a reputable shop. I’m willing to relocate if the money is right. Call/text me @ (305) 753-8073. I sell, window tint, install remote starts/alarms, HIDs, stereo systems & much more.

  4. I think as a industry we need to go to local high schools and promote kids going to installer institute for a job but also once they graduate
    and become MECP installers dealers need to step up and hire them and pay a good wage to start like $10 an hour to start and after 6 months $11 and 1st year $12. there are a lot of kids that do not like school per say and going to installer school class are short and after they graduate
    have a small school loan to pay off and start off
    better then min wage which a normal kids going to 4 yr colleges are having problems with they have big loans and cant find job or work min wage. Right now is time to promote this kids between 18 & 24 our out of work we need to put tv commercials promoting this as a profession and have dealers ready to hire.
    Kind of long winded but we need this for our survival

  5. I think what I see that is missing is the “Middle” tier. We used to have the HiFi Buys, Tweeter who hired the Best Buy guys and then we as independent retailers would poach from that pool. We now have to go build our own talent pools.

    But every industry is facing similar challenges. At Microsoft, we didn’t have enough Consultants for our channel in a specific product. We actually worked on retraining programs for SAP and Oracle Consultants to learn our product and place them with our channel partners. I am surprised that more manufacturers haven’t seen this issue and helped us retailers with it.

  6. First off there’s a misprint it should be KIRK Payne of Aspen Sound….
    Second if this is such an epidemic why don’t retailers want to invest in good techs and good training? There are several good training programs but no one wants to pay for it. Everytime someone asks me if I know of any qualified techs I ask how much they’re willing to invest to get one or make one. Generally the response is…”well…I don’t know about all of that”. What are you paying theses guys, some next to nothing. How do you get a kid to invest his future in you’re company if you don’t show him you value his position as a tech.

    1. This is why we had Wire technical training facility ( we had to brow beat dealers just to give up a week of time and $800 for training that was incredibly hands on. We even let the students have free starters or tint/tint tools. The few shops who did try it sent guys over and ovet. Others had sticker shock. I couldn’t believe it, an average tech can make that back in a day or two.

  7. ” Nearly all of about 15 retailers contacted said finding and KEEPING trained technicians is a problem.”

    I’d like to focus on KEEPING and “WHY” is it so difficult?

    1) Lack of Training. People care if you take a genuine interest in their future! If they see no future, then it’s only a matter of time before they will leave!

    2) Lack of good pay, we lose them to a competitor or another industry. (This starts in the Sales Department)

    3) Poor working conditions! No Pride in the business! The stores that take pride in themselves are the one’s who are doing most of the business. They are constantly training and upgrading their facility and installation departments. They are investing in everyone’s future, not just their alone!

    4) Poor Moral! The Lack of one of these or all of these above leads to Poor Moral. Poor Moral is like cancer if you do not cut it out, it spreads!
    Poor Moral is deadly as far as killing off any business!!!

    Here’s the Major Problem!
    Can’t Sell, Can’t make More Money!
    Can’t make More Money, Can’t Pay Well!
    Can’t Pay Well, Can’t keep the Best Installers or HIRE New Ones!

    The flip side of the coin is this,

    Make More Sales, Make More Money!
    Make More Money, you then have the Money to KEEP and HIRE the best employees!

    It all starts in the Sales Department and if address properly, PROBLEM SOLVED!

  8. This is a problem that has been building for years. Car audio is no longer “easy”. It requires actual skills, knowledge, professionalism. When kids were climbing over each other to work at a car audio shop, it was the coolest job in the world….but rarely a career. When they get married, have kids and responsibilities, they leave car audio. The problem is twofold; How to keep the most experienced techs, and how to entice new ones. A more formalized curriculum that follows MECP standards, along with better pay rates (generated by higher labor rates), and recognition as a PROFESSION, not a job is the formula to change the trend.

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