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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 12, 1998

Service Technicians—An Endangered Species

Back in the sixties, Ralph Nader and others tried to raise our consciousness about our throwaway society. Many of us listened. We bought more energy-efficient products and looked for products with quality that would last. That was then.

Now we have technology that enables us to make electronics and other products more cheaply and we are living in a period of unprecedented prosperity. The cost of replacement is so relatively low and the cost of repair so relatively high that it rarely makes sense to repair an item. On small appliances and office machines, repair shops will charge you one-third to one-half of the cost of the item to simply examine the item and tell you what’s wrong. Then if you do decide to repair the item, who’s to say how much more use you’ll enjoy.

The result, of course, is that for many items, more people are choosing replacement over repair. Thus, there has been a decreasing demand for service technicians in many fields, and when they are sought, they are very hard to find. Do we see this trend changing soon? No, not until Ralph or someone comparable returns to raise our consciousness once more.

But electronic service technicians are not the only ones in short supply. Service technicians in the automotive field are becoming scarce as well. For some makes, especially the imports, dealerships are resorting bidding wars for experienced techs.

What’s the answer? BMW is working with the technical schools and colleges to encourage young people to consider careers as service technicians—and it’s working.

We’re not surprised. In a previous Trend Alert, we talked about college interns as a source for good labor. Car dealerships and others wanting to attract these young people would do well to offer paid internships to tech school students. The experienced techs feel good about teaching and the young people become bonded to the organization.

© Copyright 1998- by The Herman Group, Inc. -- reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From "The Herman Trend Alert," by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3547 or To sign up, visit The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc."

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