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Looking for the Next Generation of Automotive Recyclers

If there was one question that resonated throughout the Baltimore experience, it was where will the next generation of automotive recyclers come from and how to make sure the industry is meeting the training needs of this future workforce?

Next generation succession was not an automatic right for ARA members Andrew MacDonald and Jonathan Morrow who spoke about the topic during an educational session in Baltimore. Both grew up in the business, Andrew at his family’s Maritime Auto Parts in Truro, Nova Scotia, and Jonathan at the family’s M & M Auto Parts in Fredericksburg, VA. Their shared experiences included cleaning cars, shelves and maintaining inventory. “These are the only jobs I ever did,” said Andrew. “I had never done sales, dismantling, part pulling, pricing, stocking cars, marketing, accounting or buying.”

Both MacDonald and Morrow went off to college, and upon graduating went to work somewhere else. After working at a real estate development company, Morrow returned to the family business. “I came back and my dad asked me, ‘Who are you going to fire?’ I said, ‘What?’ Then Dad said, ‘This is a process. When an opening comes up, you have to apply.’ So, it wasn’t an automatic thing.”

Likewise for MacDonald. “At first I had to convince my parents that I was serious. I had to get with the accountants, make a business plan, talk to the bank, and then buy the business. I also had to sell the bank that I had the ability to do it.”

As Morrow pointed out to an audience of peers “Your parents aren’t stupid.” And to the parents in the room, he offered, “If you have kids who show interest, pull back the veil. Show them. You should be teaching the next generation.”

The Roundtable of all Roundtables

If ever there was a forum to share the ins and outs of generations, the Recyclers Rountable filled the bill. The topics of business succession and finding well-qualified employees occupied a large percentage of the lively session during Convention. “We have got to do a better job of understanding this younger generation coming up, the millennials,” said moderator Shannon Nordstrom of Nordstrom’s Automotive, Inc. of Garretson, S.D (pictured left). “They want to be part of something important. I think we need to let our people know they are a part of something important. That’s the way they are wired — we have to figure out ways to better work with them.”

One ARA member shared that he has implemented an internship program with two local high schools. They start off hiring the students for summer jobs and by senior year when they are not required to be in school full time, the internship broadens. He said roughly half of his staff comes through that program, and granted, they may not stay long, but it’s a start. An-
other ARA member says he posted a job on LinkedIn and received 45 applications. One member noted that when he gets a resume, he looks at it not just for the current opening, but for potentially other positions.

When a recycler is able to find help, the immediate next question should be – are they trained? As Tanvir Arfi, Managing Director of Solera pointed out in his keynote, today’s new cars are fully wired for telematics. He said he recently drove the new Telsa model, saying the car automatically turns, changes lanes, speeds up, and slows down. “There are three and a half more parts on a car today versus five years ago. Is your workforce today trained? Are they qualified to pull, quote, pack, and ship and maintain the parts? Are they trained to pull computers, sensors and inventory it properly?”
As MacDonald and Morrow noted, “Business is not the same as it used to be. We have to do things differently. We see the business where it is, not where it was.”