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On the front lines of recruiting techs

From the West Coast to Colorado, Cheryl Carder is in the trenches and seeking technician talent for BMW dealerships

Seattle—The early bird gets the job candidate. It’s six o’clock in the morning and Cheryl Carder is already scanning online employment websites for recently updated resumes and screening potential technicians for BMW dealerships.

“I have more than 40 dealerships that I assist in locating qualified technicians,” Carder, who is the Northwest Regional Technician Recruiter (RTR) for The BMW RTR Program, told Aftermarket Matters Weekly. Her territory covers seven states: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, half of California and part of Nevada.

“More than 70 percent of general job candidates are ‘passive’ — they’re not looking for another job. But if you ask if they’re sure they’re happy and if they’ve thought of another opportunity, then some give it strong consideration.

“People sometimes don’t know what opportunities are there unless they’re made aware of them.”

“There are more than 350 BMW dealerships across the country,” Carder says, “so there’s always an opportunity to work for the manufacturer.”

Recruiting the recruiter

Carder’s recruiting career began in aviation for a company that is a large MRO (Maintenance Repair Overall) program for commercial aircraft. The technicians she recruited conducted higher-level maintenance and service beyond an airline’s own technicians’ ability. “I jumped into it and loved it.”

During her last year with the company, she had filled more than 300 positions. The Retail Performance Company (rpc), the consulting agency that BMW of North America partners with to provide BMW centers assistance with finding automotive technicians, took notice. rpc reached out to Carder through LinkedIn and hired her away to be part of its newly expanded team of regional recruiters throughout the U.S. to help BMW dealerships find technician talent.

Like the many technicians who she recruits, Carder said, “I really wasn’t looking for a new opportunity because I was happy with my job. Many times, a company will find you rather than you finding them.”

The BMW Regional Technician Recruiting Program is unique among automakers

It’s uncommon for vehicle manufacturers to support dealer networks with technician recruitment, Carder said. Usually, each dealership center does its own recruiting, whether they are independently owned or part of an auto group.

“But the Regional Technician Recruiter program was created because it’s very challenging finding technicians,” she added, noting that rpc supports six Regional Technician Recruiters across the country. “The program was developed to let dealerships know that BMW of North America is there to help them. It takes a lot of people and boots on the ground to find qualified technicians — it’s always been challenging, pandemic or no pandemic.”

The majority of technicians she recruits are mechanical, though she will also source collision technicians to fill positions in BMW-certified collision centers. Carder evaluates their credentials for the dealerships she is recruiting for.

Dealerships in Carder’s region will reach out to her with the type of technician role they’re seeking to fill, whether it’s entry level, a master tech or someone with previous BMW experience.

“They are very specific on who they want and it’s my job to find them. I’ll conduct several interviews each day, even for centers I’m not actively recruiting for in order to build my bench so I’ll have a candidate ready to go when there’s a need.”

Carder is presently coordinating with 11 high schools to give her presentations.

Technician pathways to BMW dealerships

Most of Carder’s recruits are already in the industry, though she also invests her energies in schools with automotive programs and giving presentations that provide an overview of BMW’s three paths to a potential opportunity at a BMW dealership: direct-to-dealership (see above); the BMW Apprentice STEP program; and BMW’s STEP program (Service Technician Education Program). Qualifications for each pathway are also reviewed.

Carder said recruiting in automotive is more challenging than in aviation. “Because of the high numbers I produced in aviation, I assumed it would be a breeze because I didn’t have to do any of the onboarding — I just had to find them and pass them along. It’s a lot harder.”

Carder’s aviation employer also had an apprenticeship program that trained prospective technicians who didn’t have prior schooling or training. “We were able to fill seats with high school graduates who weren’t quite sure of their career paths. We took them in and trained them with good starting wages of $16 an hour — and all the schooling was free.”

BMW North America also offers a manufacturer training program, BMW STEP, that requires candidates to have a post-secondary education completed prior to entering the program. (To learn more about the prerequisites and training provided, visit

“There are more than 340 BMW dealerships across the country, Carder said, “so there’s always an opportunity to work for the brand.”

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