Throughout my travels, I get a lot of questions about careers in the automotive industry. Whether it is from parents or young car enthusiasts, many are seeking a way to match their love of the car hobby with a viable career. Several universities offer programs focused on automotive marketing management and aftermarket support, however, one segment is often overlooked:
Automotive Service Technician
It seems automotive dealerships and independent repair shops are constantly looking for new service technicians. In fact, experts and industry leaders have been warning us about this since at least 2012. Charlie Gilchrist, past NADA Chairman, estimated a few years ago that the approximately 16,500 new car dealerships were going to need at least 76,000 technicians between 2020 and 2026, just to keep pace with demand.
In a TechForce Foundation report from 2020, it was noted that the industry would be short by approximately 642,000 technicians (automotive, diesel, and collision) between now and 2024.
What’s the cause of this shortage? Both NADA and TechForce believe these are the underlying issues:
- The aging baby-boomer technician workforce is retiring in larger numbers each year, with some estimates as high as nearly 9% annually.
- Relatively high turnover. For example, NADA studies indicated that B-Technicians at auto dealerships are turning over at approximately 31% per year, with a high percentage of this group being in younger generations.
- Fewer technicians are graduating from the ten largest providers of post-secondary automotive degrees: just 5,015 in a recent year according to the TechForce Foundation.
- The number of women is extremely low in any area, with women representing less than 1.5% of all technicians in the United States.
Missing from this list is the perception that being a “mechanic” is a dirty, low skill job. Nothing could be further from the truth. As vehicles become more complex with hybrid and electric drivetrains, diagnosis and technical know-how are critical. Yesterday’s mechanic is today’s technician.
In my article below, I share my favorite YouTube channels that focus on the diagnosis and repair of challenging car problems. One of those channels in particular, Pine Hollow Auto Diagnostics, exemplifies the level of intelligence and skill needed for today’s vehicle repairs.
Related Article: Favorite Car REPAIR Channels
Several really good schools around the country offer two-year programs to get you on your way to a good paying job in the service industry. Compared to a four year college degree that might cost $100,000 or more, these tech schools can cost well under $20,000 and offer immediate placement into a good paying job.
How many four year college programs land you into the specific role of your major? More importantly, how many university students spent their four years exploring what they really want? That’s a costly strategy, but one that can be resolved through proper career guidance and training.
For the first ten years of my career at General Motors, I held positions in the service side of the company. I became familiar with the GM Automotive Service Education Program (GM ASEP) when working with Chevrolet dealers.
These dealers knew the value of a well trained technician, and utilized any of the more than 50 independent ASEP schools across the country to source their top technicians. To learn more about this program and the details about the schools, please visit their website HERE.
GM Shifting Gears
General Motors has a history of supporting U.S. military service men and women, including offering job training for soldiers transitioning from service in the U.S. Army to civilian life through the GM Shifting Gears Automotive Technical Training Program.
The Shifting Gears program, offered exclusively at Fort Cavazos (Killeen, Texas), is a partnership between the U.S. Army, GM and Vertex. It is designed for soldiers to participate in a 12-week auto technician training program prior to their separation date. This makes them qualified to work as an entry-level technician at a GM dealership when they complete active duty.
Since launching the program in August 2014, there have been 705 former soldiers who have graduated from the program. One of those graduates, Sergeant First Class Christopher Watters, served 21 years in the U.S. Army where he served as a Light Wheel Mechanic. Growing up working on cars since he was a child and then working on military vehicles, the Shifting Gears program was of interest to him as he explored options for his next career. After successfully completing the training program, he went on to become a GM dealership auto technician.
This is just one of the 705 success stories from Shifting Gear. I’m sure the other 704 are equally as good.
Final Thoughts & Questions
Many rewarding careers in the automotive industry are available for anyone who applies themself. Some take more time to evolve, however, those seeking immediate impact can get that from one of the many technical training schools.
I have more experience with the GM opportunities, so my focus is on their programs. Similar programs exist through other auto manufacturers as well. A simple Google search will reveal them!