Showing Off Their Skills
Recently, as Hino sales, parts and service people competed to reach the Hino National Skills Contest, showing off their skills in servicing trucks, identifying parts and selling them, a female reached the finals for the first time.
Talk to any workshop around the country and a shortage of skilled employees is identified as an ongoing problem. If they come across a skilled person they find it hard to keep them and a certain amount of poaching is always going on.
One of the ways to encourage young people to develop their skills is the skill contest. Hino has been running its Hino National Skills Contest for the past nine years. Originally a competition for service personnel and parts interpreters, the contest was extended to include sales consultants four years ago.
In the five months leading up to the contest, a series of qualifying rounds across the country take place whittling the entrants from Hino's dealer network down to the final competitors who will compete for the title.
This year saw the competition's first female finalist, Kara Green, a parts interpreter working for Adtrans Hino in Smeaton Grange on the outskirts of Sydney. When the final results were read out Kara had achieved second in the parts interpretation contest, behind the overall winner Stan Voltemar from WA Hino.
Kara does not come from a background which would have suggested she would make a success in the world of truck components. Up until three years ago she was working as a singer and a dancer in a stage show and had no knowledge of trucks or the trucking industry.
The dancing profession is not a particularly steady career and Kara began to supplement her income working as a delivery driver for a vehicle parts company. Luckily for Kara, she didn't need any knowledge of vehicle parts to do the job, she just had to drive. One of the customers she delivered to regularly was Adtrans and she got to know the staff there.
"I knew nothing about trucks, I only knew how to fill up my car with petrol," says Kara. "The parts manager at Adtrans at the time, got to know me and offered me a job as a parts interpreter. I told him I knew nothing at all, but he held on and took me on, I did my apprenticeship and here I am.
"I really enjoy the fact that I learn things every day, coming from having no experience with the automotive industry at all. It's good because my husband is a mechanic, so when he talks to me I have an understanding of what he's talking about. I had gotten blase about what he was telling me, but now I get it. He's impressed that I know things. In fact, guys seem a lot easier to get along with now."
Kara works in a small team of three, she works on the front desk with one colleague. She is responsible for parts interpreting, as well as working out parts orders and packaging parts. She is not sat in front of the computer all day, there is plenty of variation in the work.
"I find that some people presume I don't know what I'm talking about because I am female," says Kara. "They are like that begin with, but it is OK. As a woman I think I work with a different level of care to some of the guys here. I tend to get things out quicker and a lot of customers come to me because of that. I don't bullshit them, by telling them things I don't know anything about. If I don't know something, I'll tell them I don't know.
"In the Hino National Skills Contest there were six of us in the parts competition. I was the first female to make it through to the final. I was very surprised I did so well.
A lot of people in the competition have been working in the automotive industry for a very long time, and been with Hino for a longtime.
"Doing this job you need to ask a hell of a lot of questions to make sure you get the right thing for people. You need to keep asking until you're sure, look at any pictures, anything to help. It can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, but it's worth it to get the right part in the end."
Kara finished her apprenticeship in February and clearly loves the job. She has brought some precision to her task and is happily settled in the parts department at Adtrans. This care and efficiency in her work was clearly demonstrated at the skills competition at which she finished runner up.
"I am happy where I am, I don't want to go into cars or anything, I like working with trucks," says Kara. "I haven't had any problems yet because I am a woman.
Although, when a customer comes in, they will see me sitting here and one of the guys and they will just assume I am the receptionist until I ask them whether I can help them.
"They say, 'Oh, you can help me' and they are surprised that I can. There is that thing where women are receptionists and men do the job. However, as soon as they know that I am an interpreter, they are happy to deal with me.
"I am still learning every day, I still have to ask the guys, if I am dealing with a big job like an engine quote. I am not sure about all of the things I have to include in the quote. When it comes to things like body panels, I am pretty sweet with it now."
At the Hino national Skills Contest finalists in the sales and parts categories are required to demonstrate their expertise through a series of role play scenarios, while the service technicians are tested on their diagnostic, analytical and technical skills in a series of hypothetical exercises. Parts contestants were further challenged to identify genuine and non-genuine parts, while sales consultants were quizzed on their product knowledge.
"As always, we never fail to be impressed by the skills and expertise of the people in our dealer network, our Skills Contest is the most comprehensive of its type in the industry," says Steve Lotter, Hino Australia Chairman and CEO. "Over the nine years we have changed the format to showcase this expertise, with this year being the fourth that sales consultants have been tested alongside service technicians and parts interpreters. Once again the contest was incredibly close, as it was throughout the qualifying rounds. I congratulate everyone who participated, it's fantastic to see such commitment."
There was another female featured at the event. In an added contest as part of this year's contest there was an Australia vs New Zealand Service Challenge between Heidi Inkster, winner of the Hino New Zealand's event, and Asa Pearson from CMI Adelaide, a previous Hino Australia Skills Contest winner. Each contestant took part in a series of repair and diagnostic tasks over 30 minutes with the results tied at the end.