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Playing the blame game with the technician shortage

Thursday, January 3, 2019 - 09:00
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For generations, teenagers and young adults were driven to our industry by a passion for cars. Cars were  all around us as we were growing up. It was our freedom when we turned 16 and got our license. We drooled over the classics and resto-mods at our local cruise-ins. We were out in the garage with our dads, uncles, our friends, all wrenching and learning how to fix them. We sat by the TV waiting for our favorite build show to start on the weekends before heading out to the garage to work on our project. These magazines, these cars, these shows, all had our attention and helped drive our interest into what ultimately became a career for a lot of us. So what changed? Where did the interest go for the next generation of techs? Are we part of the problem?

While I’m not part of the “old guard” in our industry, I’m not a spring chicken, either. Getting my start professionally in the industry 15 years ago in December 2003, I have seen a lot of change in the past 15 years. Step back for a second and look at your career and what has changed. Now think about it from someone’s point of view who has been in it double that time. The rate at which technology has been advancing in cars is hard to fathom. Think of the amount of sensors, wiring, cameras and computers that are now in vehicles that weren’t there just a few years ago. We aren’t exactly working on your dad’s Bel-Air anymore.  It has advanced so much that a lot of it isn’t something that’s done in the garage anymore.  People are paying to bring their cars to shops more and more, so that by itself creates demand for techs.  But where are they?

In my 15 years, I have noticed a huge decline, probably much like all of you reading this, in the younger generation coming in. We aren’t getting any younger and vehicles are still going to get crashed and need repaired/painted. For the industry to continue, we as a whole need to change our thinking and get more involved.

TechForce Foundation: Inspiring the next generation of techs

TechForce Foundation® is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) with the mission to champion students to and through their technical education and into careers as professional technicians. Founded in 2007, the Foundation distributes more than $2.0 million in scholarships and grants annually, thanks to its generous corporate sponsors and donors. TechForce is also spearheading FutureTech Success®, the industry-wide initiative to help encourage and support more young people to pursue careers as transportation technicians.

The days of the “grease monkey” are long gone. Today’s vehicles have millions more lines of code than the spaceship that put man on the moon. Transportation technicians are computer savvy and in demand. One out of every seven jobs in the U.S. is transportation related and there is a massive shortage of qualified technicians which means hiring demand is sky-high. Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the annual demand for new tech graduates is more than double the number that are graduating – essentially more than two new job openings to every one tech graduate.

Based on an analysis of figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, TechForce Foundation’s 2017 Technician Demand Report found that, on average, more than 120,000 new technicians are needed annually through 2021 to meet industry’s demand. This includes an average annual demand of more than 17,000 new collision technicians, over the next two years.

TechForce Foundation published a 2018 follow-up report examining the supply of new technicians entering the transportation industry. Despite an annual average demand of over 120,000 technicians, TechForce’s report found that completions of post-secondary technical programs were more or less level across the industry, and the number of completions of collision specific training programs decreased year over year from 2012-2016.

TechForce Foundation is addressing this challenge by inspiring the next generation of transportation techs through the industry-wide FutureTech Success campaign. The campaign leverages the industry’s collective voice to 1) reposition the image of the technician profession as a high-tech, rewarding career, 2) provide experiential opportunities for middle- and high-school students to engage with transportation technology and 3) connect students’ passion and sense of purpose with resources and mentors.

For more information on TechForce Foundation, visit www.techforcefoundation.org. To download TechForce Foundation’s full 2017 Technician Demand Report click here; for the 2018 Supply Report click here. To learn more about the FutureTech Success campaign, including how you can join in the effort to encourage the next generation of transportation technicians, visit www.futuretechsuccess.org.

For the next generation, we need to notice that the industry doesn’t have the same appeal to them that it did for us. We live in a disposable society where if it breaks, people just go out a buy a new one. A lot of kids aren’t being brought up in an environment of fixing what they have. They don’t have the experiences out in the garage with family or friends repairing that old car and getting/keeping it running. They don’t know the euphoria of satisfaction that comes with a restoration job or seeing the bodywork straight as an arrow after the car has been painted, seeing the reward for all of that sanding that killed their shoulders and arms.

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