The great auto technician shortage continues in the U.S., spurring various programs to put qualified mechanics to work at car dealerships.
The latest initiative, which focuses on minorities, is a collaboration among the National Automobile Dealers Assn., National Urban League and Urban League of Louisiana.
NADA is partnering with the state’s dealer association to place aspiring technicians into apprenticeship roles in local dealerships. The NADA Foundation is providing resources.
“This pilot program is the first step in what we hope will one day be a national program to recruit, train and place trained technicians in dealerships across the country,” says the foundation’s chairwoman Annette Sykora, owner of Smith Auto Family in Levelland, TX, and a former NADA chair.
“Working with our Urban League partners, we will identify aspiring technicians, train them at a participating dealership and community college, and place them into critical work at Louisiana dealerships,” she says, envisioning that the program “can scale anywhere.”
Up to 20 selected candidates will start with the Urban League of Louisiana’s four-week professional and life skills training program this month.
They will then go to participating dealerships to shadow service personnel while also studying automotive technology at local community colleges.
“This program creates equitable pathways for a stronger and more innovative automotive industry in our state,” says Judy Reese Morse, who heads the Urban League of Louisiana.
Upon completion of the training and shadowing, the aspiring mechanics will work at dealerships as technician apprentices. The apprenticeship program will run for approximately 18 months and include both ASE and OEM certifications.
“A diverse workforce that has equitable access to training and opportunity is a key element to a dynamic and resilient economy, and creative organizations like the National Automobile Dealers Assn. are helping to lead the way,” says National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial.
NADA says about 39,000 new service techs graduate from U.S. technical colleges and training programs annually. But the association says the industry needs 76,000 new technicians a year to replace those who quit or retire.
Training programs take various forms across the country.
For example, BMW runs the BMW Military Service Technician Education Program.
It offers technician training to active military people at military bases, starting shortly before their discharge. It then helps them find civilian jobs as technicians at BMW dealerships.
BMW’s 350 U.S. dealerships employ more than 7,000 technicians. But like the rest of the dealership world, new technicians are in high demand because of the turnover issue, and because fixed operations are a major dealership profit center.
Auto technician schools are keeping up with the times by training students to work on battery-electric vehicles.
For instance, Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI, added a Ford Mach-E to its stable of vehicles used to train auto technician students.
“It’s also an opportunity to show students how the EV compares with internal-combustion engines, which remain a big focus of our training,” Brandon Tucker, the school’s associate vice president of workforce and community development, told Wards in an earlier interview.