This month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 7.8 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.4 million jobs remain unfilled in America. This crisis exists because employers demand “job ready” employees and prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate education and training.
With self-driving cars and other new automotive technologies frequently making headlines, it is clear that our vehicles are becoming increasingly complex. Whether it be the next generation of automobiles or diesel trucks, America needs a new generation of skilled, trained technicians to service these vehicles. But the skills of auto repair technicians are failing to keep up. And data shows that the sector is facing demands from both growth and the retirement of current technicians. APSCU’s third look at the shortage of skills in America explores the skills gap currently facing the automotive industry.
The United States’ growing dependence on automotive technology means the demand for highly skilled auto and diesel truck mechanics will continue to rise. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the automotive repair sector will increase 9% from 2012 to 2022; and diesel mechanic demand will grow by 12%. One report projects that we could witness 120,000 new job opportunities in the transportation technician sector over this decade.
However, service managers have said that lagging investment in vocational and industrial arts programs has led to a shortage of skilled auto mechanics at dealerships and repair shops around the country, particularly given the technological advances in auto manufacturing.
Tom Cooper, owner of Phoenix-based Desert Fleet-Serv, told the Phoenix Business Journal that the “single biggest challenge to growth is to find and hire and train and get enough technicians going.”
Quality vocational programs will therefore be essential to ensure that America’s workforce is equipped with the skills they need for a successful future. Because private sector colleges and universities provide millions of students with access to career-focused learning, they will play a crucial role in meeting this need.
“In our 70 years of training technicians for positions in the transportation sector we cannot remember a time when the industry had a greater demand for our students. We are seeing an increasing number of employers offering signing bonuses, tuition assistance, and enhanced benefits packages to attract the top graduates,” said Scott Shaw, CEO and president of Lincoln Educational Services. “While many high schools and colleges have either eliminated or downsized their hands-on training options, Lincoln Tech has continued to expand and enhance our programs to provide employers with career-ready employees. Unlike community colleges and similar schools, Lincoln specializes in hands-on automotive and diesel training which allows us to provide our students with real-world facilities and, in many cases, equipment that comes directly from the companies we support.”
“According to Pew Research Center, between 2011 to 2030 10,000 people per day will celebrate their 65th birthday. This represents an increase from 13 to 18 percent of the US population. That is a huge number of Americans who either have retired or are on the verge of retirement,” said Brad Kuykendall, CEO of Western Technical College. “The retiring population, coupled with the Department of Labor’s estimates of an increased need of 17 percent for automotive and diesel technicians will create a huge shortage of qualified techs. I use the word qualified very carefully. With the rapid advancement of technology (e.g. Bluetooth, interactive and voice activated electronics, auto collision detection, diesel particulate filters, auxiliary power units, etc.), the qualifications are ever changing. It’s vital that schools and employers work hand-in-hand to provide top-notch training to a sufficient number of graduates to keep up with the market demand.”