Because the competition for car buyers is fierce, auto dealerships often rely on their service departments for greater profitability and steady cash flow. Unfortunately, this strategy is severely impacted by a shortage of auto technicians all across the country. Let’s explore why this shortage exists what is being done to close the gap.
Unpopular Career Choice
Experienced auto tech professors will tell you that the skills needed to succeed as a mechanic today bear little resemblance to what it had been in the past. Mechanical troubleshooting has been replaced by computerized diagnostic systems. As high school vocational training programs continue to dissipate, students who may have chosen this career path are now steered toward alternatives that require a 4-year college degree. However, in the long run, it may be worth pursuing; Robert Paganini, president of the Mahwah, N.J., campus of Lincoln Technical Institute reports that top-level master mechanics with 5 years of experience can earn $100,000.
Multiple Skill Sets Required
Instead of looking over the shoulder of an experienced mechanic, entry-level technicians now need to spend at least a year learning the basics. In addition to mechanical skills, they need to have excellent computer and communication skills to quickly diagnose, communicate, and fix problems. New cars have complex diagnostic processes that require higher level problem-solving abilities.
Entry-Level Compensation is Not Competitive
Although new recruits may have already invested in a year or two of training, their entry-level compensation package is disappointing at best. And, as if that weren’t enough of a deterrent, new technicians will also be required to invest in a basic tool package which could cost as much as $7,000. Robert Koch, an auto tech professor at Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa said, “There’s not another industry that requires as many tools just to get started,”
Opportunities for Advancement?
There are many levels to pursue in automotive service, but each level requires training and time to attain mastery. The National Automotive Dealers Association provides a detailed explanation of related career paths, including responsibilities and skills required at each level. Because nearly half of auto mechanics in the US are 45 or older, the need for qualified recruits will continue to increase as they retire.
Auto Manufacturers Sponsor Incentive Programs
Instead of waiting for students to come to them, several of the major auto manufacturers have created recruiting programs. In most cases, they offer paid internships with hands-on experience for students attending auto technician training and some also help pay for tuition or provide additional, manufacturer-specific training. These recruiting efforts are not limited to students at postsecondary technical schools and job fairs but also include events for transitioning veterans. Some of these programs include:
- -- Ford’s automotive service technician training programs include ACCESS, which helps students earn an associate degree with a paid internship at a Ford dealer.
- -- The BMW STEP program provides specialized training, after having completed standard training, that significantly increases a technician’s earning potential.
- -- Fiat Chrysler’s Mopar Career Automotive Program works with community colleges and trade schools to provide paid internships with hands-on experience at their dealerships while perusing a 12- to 18-month certificate program or 2-year associate degree.
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