I’ve been in this industry 30 plus years and have seen a lot of changes. One of the largest changes is the technology of today’s vehicle. I have also seen the atmosphere of training change. One thing that I continually hear about, and have been for quite some time, is the shortage of technicians. So, is there really a shortage of technicians? I do believe there is a shortage of technicians, but not bodies to turn a wrench. I’ll be happy to explain my opinion.
In the United States, anyone with a few wrenches and a battery charger can open a repair shop. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a full supporter of independent repair facilities and over the years, I have had the fortune to visit some top shops. They were doing things right; providing a first class experience for the customer from greeting the customer, all the way through the repair process, to the last step of following up with the customer after the repair bill is paid. Making sure a customer is satisfied in their repair experience is truly the last step, not just collecting the payment for services rendered. These shops are successful for two reasons: one, for their customer service and two, because they understand the importance of a trained and experienced repair staff. The owner understands that the most important person for success is the customer and then the second is the repair staff. With this mindset, they can create an award-winning shop. These shops search for and create a great technician, which herein lies the problem.
The problem is the pool of talented people willing to become an automotive technician could be drying up. According to the Summer 2016 edition of ASE Tech News, a recent study was conducted by the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC) which revealed that almost 40% of service technicians are over the age of 55, and 70% are over 45 years old. So, this means the demand for skilled workers is probably at an all-time high in this country. However, when it comes to choosing a career, becoming an automotive technician may not be at the top of the list. A person that is mechanically inclined and able to work with their hands can choose from many different occupations from a pipefitter, electrician, HVAC specialist and, oh yeah, an automotive technician.
Let’s compare these four positions that the very same person could become successful at. Just looking at median pay, a pipefitter is $58,000, electrician $51,000, HVAC specialist $45,000, and then an automotive technician $36,500. Each of these occupations require a certain amount of education or apprenticeship to reach the median wage. So now, with all things even, the automotive technician is on the bottom in pay. So, how about tools required to perform each occupation? This is where things get interesting. I would estimate that the beginning, tool cost for each of the four occupations is very similar, but the automotive technician will be required to purchase more tools as new vehicle models need repaired. The problem is, excluding replacement of a worn tool, the first three occupations don’t really require any more or new tools to perform the job. The automotive technician will have to continually upgrade tools because as new vehicle models are created, then new and special tools are required to repair them. The technician could easily have well over $40,000 invested in tools alone within the first ten years of being in the field, and this is a conservative estimate.
Now, how about the knowledge each profession requires? The first three occupations, in most instances, are working on the same designs in their respective systems as they were ten years ago. Granted, they could have some updates; such as computer controls and different materials, but the repairs and construction have stayed very consistent over the years. The automotive technician, in most cases, is required to work on a new version every year; and in the case of the independent shop technician, with no training offered from the manufacturer. This is a major difference between these three occupations. When was the last time a OE vehicle manufacturer ever offered training to the automotive aftermarket on new models? I can answer that with confidence, NEVER! In the other three occupations, the manufacturer will usually offer some type of training on their product.
I have watched this industry for a long and have been fortunate to have worked in the bay day in and day out. This is truly a great industry that present challenges like no other. The problem is, the automotive repair industry is headed full-speed toward a talent cliff, and at the bottom is failure without any reward. I fully understand why a parent could be apprehensive to encourage their son or daughter to enter the automotive repair field; low pay, tough working conditions, high cost of tools and the stigma of “it’s just a dirty, grungy job”. However, truth be known, the automotive repair of today is as technologically advanced as any other field out there, including the computer industry.
So, this is where I bring it back around to, “Why Technician.Academy?” A goal for Technician.Academy is to be a source for up-to-date training; on-site, in the bay, and online. The on-site training is offered at community colleges and technical schools, as well as in-bay training for repair shops. The online portion consists of podcasts, webinars, online self-study courses, videoed repairs, contributing articles from industry leaders, new tool reviews, forums to discuss the industry or ask for specific repair help. We will always be asking our viewers for direction in what topics they want and need next.
We, as members of this industry, have to be a part of the change and this change needs to be for the better. The only way to accomplish this is to promote training and education to the industry/society. This education includes technicians both future and current, shop owners, customers and yes, even that future technician’s parents.
Techncian.Academy has and will continue to take training to the industry in working with some of our industry partners. Technician.Academy is able to provide training that is needed to continue advancing the diagnostic skills within the bay and also to increase the pool of future technicians that will perform to the maximum level this industry requires.
I fully know that there are a lot of you that do it right and present that professional image. I have had the fortune to have meet many of you over the years and I am grateful for that. We as an industry have to work at changing our image from the grease monkey/grungy thug to the professionals we are. The grease monkey image was not created overnight and we won’t remove it overnight either, but we have to start and the sooner, the better.