Local auto repair shops struggle with staff shortage

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COLLIER COUNTY, Fla .– There may be a wait for an appointment at your local auto repair shop the next time your car needs work.

Collier County stores are struggling to hire and keep mechanics. Now they have to figure out how to meet the same demand with few employees.

“I feel stressed. People want their cars. I’ve had cars here for 2-3 weeks because I can’t access them, ”said Kurt Umpenhour, owner of Kurt’s Automotive.

Years ago it was just a fear for Umpenhour. Now it’s the reality as his small independent shop on Yahl Street in Naples struggles to hire just one more mechanic.

“It seems people don’t want to work with their hands anymore. They are always pushed to go to university, ”said Umpenhour.

It’s no different at The Garage Auto Repair. Owner Mike Watkins said his staff are working double time to keep the store running. On Friday, some mechanics were on vacation or called in sick. The manager of the Naples branch has resumed his usual tasks and the oil changes.

During this time, some vehicles with more complex repairs remained inactive. Watkins said his staff issues started last year. While its core of mechanics stayed put, the new recruits decided to take advantage of the tough times.

“Either they quit and go home and collect unemployment, or they change jobs,” Watkins said.

Since then, the two business owners have posted job postings on sites like Indeed and Craigslist. But had little or no luck.

“You can’t even find a hot body to sit here and do nothing,” Watkins said.


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