Filling the Technician Shortage

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If there’s one silver lining to the technician shortage, it’s that there’s no shortage of publicity about it. The entire aftermarket—from manufacturers and suppliers to publications and associations—has banded together to raise awareness and find ways to attract more young people to the industry.

But there’s still more work yet to do.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the automotive industry will need to hire an average of 76,000 technicians every year between 2016 and 2026. The additions are needed to 1.) replace the individuals who are leaving the industry and 2.) fill the nearly 46,000 new openings that are projected to be available.

What Attracts Young People to Automotive?

Justin Bierly is a former parts store manager, shop owner, and diesel instructor who has 26 ASE certifications. Today, Bierly oversees the automotive program at his alma mater State College Area High School. The students in his program operate a working shop called Little Lion Auto.

“I don’t have enough students to feed what the [local garages] are looking for.” Bierly says.

To help understand the teenage mindset, Bierly recently asked his class what attracted them to his program in the first place. Two answers stood out: it’s an honest way to make a living and it’s a career path with job security. The latter shows that young people are aware of the technician shortage, which is a sign that industry efforts are at least making their way to the intended audience.  

Christopher Olds is a student in the automotive program at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s been working on cars since he was a kid and hopes to fill one of the 46,000 projected job openings. “If you enjoy working with your hands and solving problems," Olds says, "then automotive is a great career for you.”

“It’s a career path with job security.”

Overcoming Barriers to Entry

One barrier to entry for aspiring technicians is the high cost of tools. But Robby Schrimsher—a Ford Senior Master Technician by the age of 24 who has successfully reinvented himself throughout his automotive career—doesn’t believe that’s the only barrier.

“It’s quite challenging work,” he says. “We’re asking a technician who has just come out of school to work on a vehicle that has 40 computers.”

In addition to the increasing level of difficulty of repairing a modern vehicle, Schimsher has personally experienced how limited the career path can appear.

“It almost looks like a dead-end job at times,” he says. “But that wasn’t the case for me. At one time it looked like I was struck in a dead-end job.”

But Schrimsher turned what appeared to be a dead end into a unique path. He went from an apprentice technician to a master technician to being on an advisory panel. He then started his own mobile diagnostics business and now works in automotive training development. Schrimsher credits his early success to finding a network of technicians to talk with on a regular basis. Both Schrimsher and Bierly also note that science, math, and reading comprehension skills have never been more important for automotive technicians. In fact, Bierly has been working with his school's computer program to develop more co-curricular activities that merge the shared technical skills between STEM and automotive.

A Tank Half-Empty or Half-Full

The technician shortage is no doubt a big problem, but it also stands to be a big opportunity. To hear more from Bierly, Schrimsher, and Olds about their experiences, listen to our latest episode of the Aftermarket Insights podcast.

If you have thoughts on how to tackle the technician shortage, drop us a line