It would seem to be counter intuitive to think that the auto repair industry iexperiencing a shortage of skilled mechanics considering the fact that there are numerous dealerships and independently owned garages across the country. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that as many as 237000 jobs could open in the auto repair industry. So why are there are a shortage of mechanics in this field? There are a range of factors from the supply and demand side meaning that the problem not only exists with skilled labor entering the industry, but also with experienced mechanics leaving the industry in large numbers.
Based on that awesome statistic why is our beloved auto-repair industry experiencing a shortage?
Here's 4 COMPELLING reasons why:
Compelling reason 1 - Lack of skilled technicians entering the field:
There are fewer technicians entering the industry and this can be explained by institutions such as high schools putting less emphasis on technical trades in favor of pushing young students towards university. This is an issue because there are fewer students entering relevant trade schools, were they would be earning valuable hands-on experience.
The introduction of low entry level wages further exacerbates the problem because students are either unmotivated or lack the capital to afford certification. Even if they became certified, it is no guarantee that they would earn a reasonable wage. As a result, the talent pool of technicians is shrinking in relation to previous years and hence would account for part of the shortages within the industry. In an effort to combat this problem, BMW had launched a recruiting program (Dubbed the BMW step) since 2016, targeting students in trade schools, and career fairs in an attempt to bolster their workforce. Smart move by BMW, Bravo Bravo!
Compelling reason 2 - More years of experience required to master the trade:
Apart from the dwindling talent pool of technicians, dealerships and garages require highly skilled mechanics because the complexity of modern day vehicles has grown exponentially over the years. Vehicles today, require expensive and complicated diagnostic tools to properly service them which means that a graduate technician from a trade school can take up to 10 years to master their trade.
Compelling reason 3 - Outdated compensation structure:
For technicians already employed, their pay has declined over the years. This is the case because the industry standard is a flat rate which compensates the technician per job completed. Flat fee rates are standardized for each type of job performed, with the most complex jobs taking more time, but offer higher rates than less complex jobs which are often completed quickly.
The problem with this compensation scheme is that oftentimes, technicians are spending more money on specialized tools to complete their jobs which reduces net wages they actually keep. As mentioned before, vehicles have become more complex and advanced, which results in a technician spending more time to troubleshoot problems which will not be rewarded under the flat fee rate. This isn’t a problem with more complex jobs that already pay more, but complications with smaller jobs result in mechanics earning less.
Compelling reason 4 - Poor working conditions:
Another factor that contributes to the shortage of mechanics, is the poor working conditions among independently owned service centers. OEM repair centers often have more immaculate working conditions, highly organized workflows and solid processes.
As for independent service centers, their working environments are known to be poorly lit, disorganized and even hazardous to their employees. This contributes to the reluctance of new mechanics to join the trade and existing mechanics to leave as soon as they can.
In short, skilled mechanics are leaving in large numbers faster than new talent can enter into the workforce. Seasoned mechanics are retiring quickly mainly because of the working conditions, decreased compensation, longer hours spent on repairs and ultimately this leaves a gap in the industry. The demand for highly qualified technicians continues to rise while the supply of fresh workers is steadily dropping.
The demand for highly qualified technicians continues to rise while the supply of fresh workers is steadily dropping.
Its bad but its not as bad as it seems!!!
For the aspiring technician, there exists a number of high quality technical colleges and trade schools that assist students to gain industry relevant skills in a shorter time and less money spent than with traditional universities. The ideal school has to be certified with the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and offer a number of relevant courses including specializations for specific automobile manufacturers. I've put together 3 awesome schools an aspiring technician can start with and live the mechanic life they have always dreamed off.
1. Metropolitan Community College