In an era when educators and others often promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, we can overlook the dynamic job opportunities available to those who become automotive technicians.
Some mistakenly think this line of work is menial and limited when, in fact, today’s professionals use their brains just as much as they use their hands. Required to do far more than change oil and rotate tires, they employ technology and advanced skills to diagnose and repair cars with complex, computer-driven operating systems.
Industry leaders should work together to address misperceptions about auto technicians and the growing shortage of qualified personnel entering the field.
In response, Manheim is investing in and partnering with the TechForce Foundation to attract students to the profession and create a pipeline of talent.
Together, we’re reaching out to students, parents and guidance counselors to improve the image of the auto technician, raise awareness about the occupation’s earning potential and outline how to acquire the skills needed to be a part of the future workforce. In addition, we’re participating in mentorship and apprentice programs.
All of us are battling against a situation in which auto-shop classes, a former staple of many high school curriculums, are mostly a thing of the past. Today’s students often are not even exposed to the industry, and their mentors don’t realize it’s a lucrative, exciting career path. Manheim hopes our efforts will open eyes, change attitudes and highlight opportunities for jobs, advancements and rewards.
The industry’s pipeline for auto technicians needs to be rebuilt, and we’re proactively providing information and inspiration to potential future colleagues. We could use your help. Look for ways to champion this profession in your community. It’s time to start making being an auto technician cool again.
You can talk to students as young as elementary school age and those in scouts and other clubs. Plus, it’s important to stay top-of-mind with kids as they go into middle and high school and think more about their future.
On a parallel track, parents and guidance counselors need to be educated about the realities and benefits of young people becoming auto technicians. By addressing their misperceptions, you can empower those adults to be more supportive as students express interest in this career path.
These steps are important for everyone in this industry. At Manheim, we see shrinking search pools for qualified auto technicians. And this comes at a time when we need even more professionals to support one of the fastest-growing areas of our business: retail reconditioning. (Industry Voices contributor and writer of this column Fredrick Standfield, below left)
So many of our clients from across the automotive sector – manufacturers, dealers, fleet operators and others – tell us they struggle to complete their retail reconditioning in a timely manner. In response, three years ago we started offering a solution to help alleviate this pain point.
But as we expanded these services, now available at 27 of our locations, Manheim’s need for skilled auto technicians to perform mechanical, paint and body and detailing work has grown exponentially. Client demand and open positions highlight the urgency to change perceptions and drive talent into the field.
No one can afford to reach a day there aren’t enough qualified technicians for the number of cars needing repair and reconditioning. Filling a pipeline for professionals across all technical fields, especially the auto industry, should be a goal for everyone in the next decade.
Fredrick Standfield is Manheim’s Interim Senior Vice President of Assurance and Reconditioning.