Cultivate Technician Talent: The Power of Mentorship in Auto Repair Shops

June 18, 2024
Shop Tips & Best Practices
7 min read

We recently shared an article summarizing the thoughts and opinions of a couple of dozen auto technicians to help amplify their voices in the industry. One of the themes that emerged in our conversations with them was “technician mentorship.” One technician emphasized the need for solid mentors for apprentices: “Apprentice technicians must be assigned to a competent mentor and not left to sink or swim.”

To explore why technician mentorship is crucial and help you consider its implementation in your shop, we spoke with Scott Brown, owner of Connie & Dick’s Service Center Inc. in Claremont, California. “I agree that mentorship needs more focus.” says Scott, “I’ve been growing mentorship in my shop, and it makes a big difference.” 

With 40 years of industry experience and a passion for fostering learning and growth, Scott provides compelling reasons to make mentorship a core focus in every auto repair shop and tips to get you started.

“Feet to the Fire” — The Common Experience for New Technicians

Scott started as a full-time technician in a shop fresh out of trade school. As he describes it, “It was like having my feet held to the fire when I got my first job in a shop. I was surrounded by seasoned technicians who had been in the trade for a long time, yet I received no help, no mentorship. It felt like I was always trekking uphill. I had to figure everything out by myself.” 

During this challenging experience as a young technician, Scott thought the shop he worked for was an outlier —  that his experience was unique to that particular shop. Yet, as he moved up and around in his career, he realized that his experience was standard for most new technicians in most shops across the industry. This was troubling Scott, who began seeking ways to foster technician learning. He started back in the late ’80s (pre-internet) by joining the Compuserve “For Tech’s Only” forum, launching The Garage BBS,

and then combining forces at the Auto-TechNet internet mailing list, which then transformed into the International Automotive Technicians Network (iATN). After leaving that service, he co-founded the Diagnostic Network to create online spaces for technicians to learn from each other, help each other, and grow together. 

These online communities are very positive, rich resources for technicians to proactively seek help and share their knowledge. Scott encourages technicians to participate in such communities regardless of where they are in their careers. 

However, Scott believes that intentional technician mentorship must also happen inside shops

Why Your Shop Needs to Start Mentoring Young Techs 

Address the Technician Shortage with Mentorship

The auto repair industry is facing a significant challenge in hiring skilled technicians. Scott states, “The good technicians are already employed in environments where they feel valued. If they have found a shop they like, they aren’t going to jump ship to come to yours.” This underscores the necessity for shops to train and mentor young technicians, cultivating a workplace that is both supportive and appealing. The other hard truth is that many of the industry’s most talented technicians are about to age out and retire. 

Scott says, “I think the proper recipe is to look for young technicians either currently in or fresh out of trade school and nurture them from the ground up. It’s like planting and caring for a garden to ensure it thrives.”

Build Your Ideal Team

Scott advocates that a robust internal training and mentorship strategy allows shops to build an ideal team of technicians. He has experienced firsthand that a shop can cultivate a skilled workforce ready to advance and thrive by investing in young technicians and offering a clear career pathway. “This approach not only helps minimize the development of bad habits (because they are never introduced) but also creates a supportive atmosphere that promotes success,” says Scott. Implementing such a mentorship strategy ensures the team is aligned with the operational goals and desired work ethics — fostering a harmonious and productive environment.

Tips for Implementing Technician Mentorship in Your Auto Shop 

Here are a few tips from Scott to help get your shop started in effectively mentoring technicians:  

Get Buy-In from Your Current Team of Technicians 

To successfully create a culture of learning and mentorship, your experienced technicians must be willing to share their knowledge and support newer technicians in their growth and development. 

Make sure to let your current technicians know that they are doing a great job and that you’d like their expertise in helping the industry create a pipeline of up-and-coming technicians.  

Create a Structured Mentor Program

Have a plan. Scott’s shop uses the Mentor Mentee app to provide task lists and structured learning experiences for apprentices. This helps the apprentice and the mentoring technician stay on course to hit learning milestones and goals. 

Get your young technicians grounded in your shop’s functional operations. Ensure they get experience processing the multiple job types and vehicles your shop services. “Help them experience a whole gamut of challenges,” says Scott. And throughout it all, have someone alongside them to help them successfully wade through each challenge. 

Every shop is unique. As a shop owner, you must ensure that your technician mentoring strategy includes the proper training and mentorship tailored to your shop’s operations and specialties. 

Create Space for Feedback and Collaboration 

Have meetings with your technicians who are under your shop’s mentorship. Find out what’s working and what’s not. Then, figure out how to fine-tune and move forward better and stronger. 

Fostering the Next Generation of Technicians Requires Proactive Involvement Across the Industry

In addition to participating in online communities and mentoring new technicians in your shop, Scott encourages shop owners and seasoned technicians to be proactive about attracting and retaining the next generation of technicians in the industry: 

Engage with Educational Institutions

Here’s some ideas from Scott: 

  • Connect with your local high schools and technical colleges. 
  • Participate on advisory boards and help shape curriculums that meet the industry’s current needs. 
  • Get kids fresh out of high school programs and give back to the industry by giving today’s technicians a pathway and experience that will lead them to success and a thriving career.  

Here are examples of the local educational organizations and institutions that Scott is involved with:

  • Schools: Montclair High School, Citrus College, Chaffey College, Victor Valley College, Rio Hondo College
  • Organizations: California Automotive Teachers Association, ASE Educational Foundation, North American Council of Automotive Teachers, National Automotive Service Task Force, Clean Cities, California Community Colleges Strong Workforce Program

Networking and Community Engagement

Get involved with local trade associations to learn from other shops and share successful practices. This can reduce common industry friction and foster a community of continuous improvement.

Here are examples of the trade associations that Scott participates in: 

Paying It Forward 

All ships rise with the tide, and we thank Scott for sharing his personal example of being deeply involved in the continuous improvement of our industry.  

“This industry has been good to me and my family, and I am always looking for ways to pay it forward and have fun simultaneously, says Scott. The transportation industry continues to evolve, and I am so fortunate to be part of it.”

Scott Brown (left) and his apprentice receiving awards at the Citrus College Automotive Program Awards Banquet

About Scott Brown

Scott is an automotive service technician with more than 40 years of professional automotive service experience. He is dedicated to continually advancing his technical competencies on current and future automotive systems. Scott is also a technical instructor with a strong focus on vehicle electronics, vehicle network communications, engine performance, service information systems, and advanced driver assistance systems service. Scott is the founder of Diagnostic Network, ( a company launched in 2018 after leaving the International Automotive Technicians’ Network (iATN) as president after 22 years of service. Scott is also a technical editor and videographer with Endeavor Business Media under the brands MotorAge and Professional Tools & Equipment News (PTEN). Scott recently co-authored the first ADAS textbook for High School and College curriculum with Goodheart-Wilcox. Scott is also the owner of Connie & Dick’s Auto Service Center in Claremont, California, which was founded in 1960.

Related Resources

  • The Diagnostic Network is an online community of 30,000 industry professionals and leading industry stakeholders who are coming together to create the resources to support today’s and tomorrow’s technicians.
  • Mentor Mentee is an application that enables a business to implement process-focused technical mentoring, helping technicians develop their skills and advance their careers.