The automotive aftermarket is a $277B industry, growing since 2010 and predicted to continue. It’s fueled by consumers keeping their vehicles longer, putting more miles on them and needing more help when it comes to servicing them.
According to a recent IMR CCAMS study, only 53 percent of consumers answered that they had a repair done by a service professional within the last 12 months in 2008. In 2017, that number was up to 62 percent. This decrease in “Do It Yourself” behavior along with consumers generally keeping their vehicles longer than in years past, is keeping repair bays busy.
But aside from the usual demand for their services, there are some barriers to technicians’ ability to give their best service.
“Think about how you change a battery, something that used to be considered a simple job. Many that run in newer models aren’t even located under the hood. The list of what we at Interstate classify as “difficult to install” batteries grows each year as manufacturers move them to harder-to-reach spots to make room for performance-boosting gear.”
The first barrier to success: the entire automotive aftermarket industry is experiencing a shortage of technicians. At the same time, the number of cars per auto repair bay has grown from 167 to 228 since the year 2000, and that trend is projected to increase. So, the growing demand for service – combined with retiring technicians and people choosing to leave the industry – has created a “perfect storm” for a shortage.
With a deficit of qualified technicians, those currently working in the industry are crunched for time to handle the volume. In our 2017 World of Automotive Repair study, technicians listed time pressure as their No. 1 frustration. They feel rushed in their work, naturally leading to less attention to detail, poor communication and a less-than-satisfying customer experience.
“Technicians listed time pressure as their No. 1 frustration”
The second barrier to success has a chance to become an opportunity to solve both problems. Technology plays an ever-growing role in how vehicles operate today, and requires more training from technicians than ever before. The technological, electrical, digital and problem-solving skills now required of technicians can appear to be obstacles to building manpower.
But that can be overcome: with training, development and continuing education to keep up with the industry’s exponential rate of change. Those investments can bring in new technician candidates and keep current technicians around longer, with the entire staff more qualified and satisfied in their jobs.
“The number of cars per auto repair bay has grown from 167 to 228 since the year 2000”
Think about how you change a battery, something that used to be considered a simple job. Many that run in newer models aren’t even located under the hood. The list of what we at Interstate classify as “difficult to install” batteries grows each year as manufacturers move them to harder-to-reach spots to make room for performance-boosting gear.
Lucky for us, the “Do It For Me” mentality is not going away. As vehicles continue to grow more complex, the stronger the demand will be for quality technicians. With that said, it’ll be important as an industry that we share our knowledge — OEMs sharing important repair procedures, codes, etc., with aftermarket shops, and aftermarket shops sharing what works and doesn’t work with the manufacturers. This free flow of information will allow the industry to find the most efficient way to serve our customers and ease the time pressure technicians feel.
If I could give some advice to the current and future generation of technicians, I’d tell them:
1) Keep learning: Technologies are changing at an exponential speed. There’s no time to fall behind.
2) Stay current: Subscribe to blogs and publications to keep a pulse on the industry.
3) Market your shop: To stay competitive, shops have to promote themselves to the industry and consumers. If you don’t know how, partner with somebody who does, so you can compete with the national chains who have a lot of marketing power.
4) Use the shortage to your advantage: Be selective where you choose to work. Look for shops and dealers who promote learning, provide training and are great marketers. That’s where I’d want to work!
5) Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: The last thing anyone in our industry wants to do is make customers feel uncomfortable or think they’re being sold something they don’t need. It’s the little things that reinforce your customers’ trust.
Every industry has highs and lows. We can look at the technician shortage as a low, or see it as a chance to grow our skills to serve our customers better and welcome new and eager talent.
The Ultimate Guide to Transportation Technician Careers
A passion for cars, trucking and heavy equipment, motorcycles, or boats can now easily turn into a lucrative and successful career.
In our Roadmap guide, The Ultimate Guide to Transportation Technician Careers, we discuss how careers in the transportation field have experienced continued growth and how this industry is fast becoming a desirable place to work with all sorts of advanced technology.
Download the guide to learn about the wide variety of options for a career in transportation tech, including:
The different sectors within the transportation industry
The types of jobs that are out there
What skills are needed
Average salary ranges for each position
Download the Roadmap ebook guide today by filling out the formHERE.
As Sarah Price and Cindy Weinberg take their turns at the podium, they address the store managers, the mentors, the company’s CEO in attendance.
Oh, and we can’t forget the most important guests: the employees who have just graduated from Virginia Tire & Auto’s apprenticeship program.
“My message to everyone is to keep learning,” Weinberg says, thinking back on that day. “The learning is never over.”
“I tell them that they accomplished this goal,” Price adds, “and they are going to have many more goals to accomplish.”
You’ll note a core message shared between the training manager (Price) and director of talent development (Weinberg) just before they hand out graduation certificates to the former apprentices: there’s a culture of learning at Virginia Tire & Auto. In order for the 13-location auto repair business to cultivate lifelong employees, its apprenticeship program must do more than coach young technicians and service advisors on the basics of the business—it must present auto repair as a viable, fulfilling career.
And that’s where apprenticeship programs trip many shop owners up, says Wayne Martella. With two apprentices always on rotation between his four AAMCO shops in Mesa, Ariz., he knows how difficult it can be to not only oversee an apprenticeship, but also to ensure mentees are getting the full picture of the industry, and ensure that mentors are properly cultivating future leaders. From the moment apprentices walk into your shop to the moment they become full-time professionals, you must build a foundation for them to thrive.
Luckily, if you follow advice from people well versed in the practice, you’ll be ready to build a better future for your shop—a better future for the industry.
Part 1: Create a Funnel
If the automotive repair industry categorizes wannabe professionals as hindrances, it won’t truly connect with those interested in a career—a truth the TechForce Foundation deeply understands.
Jennifer Maher is the CEO of TechForce, a nonprofit that guides students through a technical education into the automotive industry. She’s seen firsthand how apprenticeships are an important component of an evolving, growing business—but she’s also witnessed why many of them fail:
“You can’t just set up a program and expect people to walk in.”
While there are currently 5.8 million unfilled trade openings in this country (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), Dr. Sally Downey says a proper education funnel can reverse that trend. And as the superintendent of the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT)—which set up more high school students with jobs than any other U.S. program—she should understand that more than anyone.
“Students need the real deal,” she says. “They can learn in the classroom, but being in a business is part of the experience they need to have.”
EVIT, situated in Eastern Arizona, is a public education system that hosts more than 40 career training programs, ranging from culinary arts to health care to, yes, automotive repair. Through those programs, roughly 240 automotive students from 10 school districts each year will simultaneously attend high school and receive two years of career training through area businesses—including Martella’s AAMCO shops.
As three individuals consumed with guiding students into a profession, Maher, Downey and Martella have some advice for ensuring there’s a steady stream of employees ready for your shop’s apprenticeship program.
Partner with Shops.
Downey says EVIT is the only high school in the East Valley of Arizona certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), which allows the school to effectively communicate with area businesses.
The thing is, auto repair shops need to be willing to collaborate—and NATEF can help facilitate that.
NATEF helps schools form local advisory committees of industry professionals, bridging the gap between education and industry. The area shops on Martella’s advisory board host students at various apprenticeships throughout the year, exposing those students to different systems, processes and specializations.
“We help the EVIT curriculum stay current with the aftermarket,” he says. “It allows us to talk with students and their parents from early high school through their senior year in high school, and reassure them that working in automotive trade is not a bad thing.”
Connect with Counselors, Parents.
You won’t reach any students if they’re being deterred from trades altogether by parents and counselors, who often believe a traditional four-year university is the only prosperous route, Maher says.
“The industry should pull those parents and counselors in, engage them, let them not forget they are vitally important to fuel future tech workforce,” she says. “We have to paint the picture for them with career opportunities and dispel those myths.”
Maher says it’s important to be upfront about how pay structures work in shops and how much students can make in the profession. Also, play up how sophisticated cars have become, and how vehicle repair requires a deep understanding of electrical and computing systems.
Martella loves attending career days, where he can talk to both students and parents about the opportunities the trade presents. He’s sure to talk up the continuous education available and the higher-than-expected salaries kids can aspire to earn.
“I have A-techs making over $100,000,” he says. “The old stigma of the grease monkey is gone. Techs today need to be very literate, computer savvy. If your son or daughter is not college bound, I tell them it’s OK to be in the automotive industry.”
Provide Equipment to Students.
In order for EVIT’s six automotive teachers to properly train students for the real world, Downey says they need the best equipment.
Luckily, used equipment donated from shops often comes in handy. Everything from scan tools to scrapped engines goes a long way in getting students shop-ready at EVIT.
As an incentive, EVIT encourages businesses to apply for a tax credit for donating equipment. Unlike a regular deduction that only allows you to subtract the contribution from your taxable income, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar deduction in the actual tax owed.
TechForce Foundation’s iHub
Solving the employee crisis isn’t a one-man job—and that’s why TechForce Foundation wants to connect all the important players through one centralized hub.
“The industry doesn’t need us to create apprenticeship programs,” CEO Jennifer Maher says of her nonprofit that guides students through a technical education into the automotive industry. “It needs us to find where those great programs are, and promote them to parents and students and shops.”
The result has been iHub (which stands for “industry hub”), TechForce’s collection of best practices from automotive companies (including automotive repair organizations and shops) from around country for promoting students into the industry.
Part 2: Form a Gameplan
Greg Settle would really like to delve into the structure of the actual apprenticeship once the student is in the shop—but there’s one bit of preparation he needs to stress first.
“You need a written plan to follow,” says TechForce’s director of national initiatives. “What tasks you’ll be covering, and what information they’ll be learning.”
Settle recommends closely following the NATEF guidelines for apprenticeships, and creating SOPs for how the apprenticeship process will work for mentors, apprentices and the person overseeing both parties (e.g., the shop owner). Meet with your team to determine your shop’s strengths and to discuss which skills are most essential to people looking to break into the industry. Map out a timeline that moves students between various specialties and tasks to give them a rounded view of daily shop life.
Luckily, to help, Settle has noted what typically works best for an apprenticeship program, while Price, Weinberg and Martella have outlined their shops’ programs for Ratchet+Wrench. While this isn’t an exact outline of one single program, the following gameplan generally covers the consistencies between several businesses and how apprentices are properly onboarded, trained and acclimated into shop life.
On a quarterly basis, Virginia Tire & Auto reviews applicants to its apprenticeship program. They are evaluated, and if chosen, then paired with a Master Technician.
Based on the apprentice’s skill level, the length of the apprenticeship can vary. If a tech student shows promise, but needs a couple more years of experience, the time frame may vary from someone who is out of school.
If the apprentice is splitting time between school and the shop, Martella will have him or her come in after school a few days per week, and sometimes even work half-days on Saturdays (since his shop is open). Often, that part-time apprenticeship will segue into a full-time apprenticeship during summer break, or if the individual graduates.
From there, Martella says the technician’s graduation from C- or D-level positions depends entirely on the apprentice’s aptitude. An apprenticeship can last anywhere from 3 months to one year before the apprentice is moved into a permanent position.
This is where apprentices review the company’s basic daily tasks, and various detailed shop processes. Basic processes involve everything after the client drops off his or her vehicle. The advisor gets the information, then dispatches the technician’s work, and then walks him or her through all the way to the end of the actual customer vehicle process.
Detailed processes include:
A comprehensive vehicle inspection process
The repair order
Repair ticket schedules
Properly formatting estimates and notes
The shop also reviews the software for technician resources, including diagnostic processes, the vehicle test drive procedures and checking fluids.
Here, apprentices put all these processes and procedures they’ve been trained on into practice. As they do this, their mentors will watch them, guide them, prepare them, and perfect their quality control.
During the first year at Virginia Tire & Auto, Price says that apprentices specifically focus on four service items:
Steering and suspension
If the apprentice shows promise at Martella’s shop, he or she will upgrade to more sophisticated duties, such as diagnostics.
This is the final step before apprentices are on their own. The trainee will work alongside the trainer for several months, applying the knowledge from the previous steps.
The trainee will have each step of the process verified for accuracy before moving on to the next step. The mentor will judge how much freedom he or she is allowed based on skills and work ethic.
At this point, apprentices are expected to have done the necessary research and preparation to know the car before it comes in. They check it properly, they test drive it—all the duties a full-time employee is expected to perform.
Once they prove they can do that, they’re ready to operate on their own.
Determine the Payment Structure
Every source quoted in this story echoes the same sentiment: You need to pay your apprentices.
While an “apprenticeship” is often viewed differently than an “internship,” Cindy Weinberg, director of talent development for Virginia Tire & Auto, says that often apprentices are looking for longevity and supporting families, and a lack of compensation could turn many of them off.
Sarah Price, training manager for Virginia Tire, says that the company even pays for ASE certification, study guides and online automotive tech training courses when necessary. The company will also offer interest-free loans to apprentices to purchase tools. Those loans come straight out of employee paychecks.
It’s even important to consider compensating your mentors, who will have to juggle teaching and their regular work. To help, the TechForce Foundation is developing a payment calculator on its website that dictates how much both parties should be paid, how many hours will be flagged during the mentorship, and what income each party will accrue over time. Stay posted for a link when it’s published.
Part 3: Onboard Apprentices
With this gameplan, you’ll have outlined an apprenticeship blueprint for both parties, meaning you can properly set expectations for both employees and students ahead of the process.
At Martella’s shop, the apprentices sit down for an orientation on the first day, where they review the company policies, the facility, the tools, the resources available, the parts processes, and the technician responsibilities in an employee handbook. That includes everything from hiring forms to a facility tour. There are regular evaluations that test the apprentices’ knowledge on these processes.
Settle says apprentices should be expected to recall shop basics:
Can you state our core values and philosophies?
Can you prove you can keep yourself organized?
Are you managing personal volume levels?
Can you identify the location of the diagnostic equipment?
Do you know to properly use the lifts, spring compressors, presses and flush tools?
And while your employees will help shape the apprenticeship blueprint, they—just like the students—will still need to be properly “onboarded,” meaning they’ll need training and advice for how to mentor students.
Price says that Virginia Tire & Auto is blessed with many master techs, who only need a tiny bit of guidance on how to properly train apprentices. Still, Price travels to the company’s 13 different locations throughout the year to check in with apprentices and mentors to ensure apprentices are making forward progress and train master techs on how to be good mentors. Price encourages patience with mentees and asks them to set expectations each day so apprentices have something to work toward.
Many automotive repair shop owners fear the liabilities associated with minors working at their facilities, says Greg Settle, director of national initiatives for TechForce Foundation.
But if simple precautions are considered, it shouldn’t be a problem, says David Whitney, vice president of the retail profit center at Zurich Insurance, which works with shops and dealerships.
He provided some important legal advice for forming apprenticeship programs:
Apprentices should be subject to the same employment standards in place for all other employees, including appropriate background checks, motor vehicle report checks and drug testing.
Minors should be prohibited from operating vehicles under any circumstance.
Apprentices should receive all appropriate new hire training offered to other employees, including how to properly handle flammable liquids, machinery and other equipment.
Host anti-discrimination and harassment prevention training, with documentation verifying this and kept in the apprentice’s personnel file.
If you host students for tours, properly train individuals who will be responsible for said tours. Create a written checklist that outlines the tour route and addresses any hazards one may encounter during the tour.
Part 4: Monitor the Apprenticeship
Maher has overseen marketing and headed corporate alliances at both YMCA and Make-A-Wish America, where she observed the importance of higher-level planning on a national scale from an executive level.
But, at the end of the day, she acknowledges it’s really all about those small, intimate relationships that go on to reshape lives.
“One person can make a difference,” she says. “If one person exposes them to the career, it can completely alter their life. That’s why apprenticeship programs are so important.”
The apprentice applicants are interviewed by available mentors and paired accordingly. Then, when an applicant is placed in the apprentice program, he or she begins working with the mentor and at the first hands-on monthly training is provided with a packet that includes an “Individual Development Plan” and tips for communicating with mentors. Within that packet, mentors and mentees outline three goals for the first year of the apprenticeship.
From there, Sarah works with the master tech to deliver hands on training to apprentices once a month, visits the individual apprentices in the stores, and meets quarterly with the apprentice, mentor and store leadership to review a scorecard on the apprentice’s progress in the program..
Often, because of this practice, mentees graduate from the program and become mentors themselves, creating a cycle that ensures Virginia Tire continually pumps out new quality employees as it continues to grow.
Travis Bean is the associate editor for FenderBender, Ratchet+Wrench and Fixed Ops Business.
State Farm and TechForce Foundation partnered to supply a local Phoenix high school with a 2016 Nissan Sentra, to use as a training aid in its auto shop program. The donation is part of the Foundation’s FutureTech Success campaign and presents the first opportunity for Trevor Brown High School students to work on a vehicle this new. This is a crucial step in preparing each student for an in-demand career in transportation technology.
Watch local Phoenix coverage of the donation below:
Recently, our industry has stepped-up with a number of initiatives to inform the general public about the value and connection between STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and future automotive career opportunities. The efforts have featured a multi-level approach, from educating students and parents about future workforce needs and benefits, to informing the STEM community about the wide variety of necessary backgrounds and opportunities, to raising awareness and involvement within our own industry.
One such effort is the Transportation Challenge, an initiative that deserves your attention. Not only does it have the support of a broad range of industry participants, its focus is on a student demographic industry employers have not traditionally considered — students who aren’t in an automotive program.
Connect, Interest and Encourage Students Earlier
The grassroots concept for the Transportation Challenge was created by the TechForce Foundation. For those who aren’t aware of TechForce, it’s a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that believes solving the qualified technician shortage problem requires reaching out to students at a younger age. Its mission: To champion students to and through their education and into careers as professional technicians.
“We need to work at the grassroots level by offering tangible and relevant experiences to adolescents as they start to think about their possible future careers,” explained Greg Settle, director of National Initiatives for the TechForce Foundation. “The Transportation Challenge focuses on students being able to use their STEM skills to work on applicable, vehicle-related simulations. An early experience like this may prove to be the first step for students to pursue one of many rewarding automotive careers. I don’t know if every one of these students will, but I do know that after an experience like this, some are a step closer.”
Hands-on weekly sessions for the first Transportation Challenge — geared for middle school-aged students — ran September through December 2017, with a wrap-up and public demonstration last month in Phoenix, AZ. A second Challenge, to run February through May 2018, also in Phoenix, will use high school sophomores as its demographic. They’ll serve as pilots to critique, refine and perfect before the program is rolled out across the nation.
TechForce was assisted by a task force of volunteers from the ASE Training Manager’s Council (ATMC), who helped design five “automotive challenge scenarios” the students would later choose from and execute. Settle asked Tim Dwyer, an education specialist with ConsuLab Educatech Inc. to lead the task force. In addition, local educators, representatives from national associations and executives from industry employers shared constructive feedback and evaluations to help fine tune its delivery. Sponsors General Motors, Nissan North America, Advance Auto Parts, Snap-on Tools and Universal Technical Institute underwrote the costs of the Challenge.
“We feel we have to go back as early as middle school-aged students and put self-discovery at the level where they’ll hopefully spark an interest in a career in the transportation industry and help solve some of the quality technician shortage problems we’re having right now,” Dwyer explained.
The ATMC task force helped design five automotive challenges for the student teams to select from. One of the middle school teams (left) built and demonstrated a planetary gear set. Another team (right) was tasked with engineering a two-axle vehicle that would protect an egg in the event of a frontal impact crash. (All images — Tim Dwyer)
A Program Built for Discovery
“To meet these challenges, these young people transformed from being a group of individuals into team members who relied on one another,” Dwyer noted. “The Transportation Challenge students worked in three teams to learn real-life tasks. These lessons ranged from structural engineering and material compatibility to the chemistry of atmospheric air and how it affects an engine, topics usually unavailable in a traditional classroom.”
Once part of a Transportation Challenge event, student teams choose one challenge out of the five created by the ATMC task force. One team selected designing a crash test, which required it to build a two-axle vehicle that would protect an egg in the event of a frontal impact. The second team chose to engineer a working turbocharger for the compression of intake air into an internal combustion engine. The final team was challenged with building a planetary gear set utilizing a fixed speed electric motor that would move a fixed weight a certain distance.
Each of the teams then used and developed their STEM skills by spending two hours each week at CREATE U facility at the Arizona Science Center, where they had access to CNC machines, laser cutters, 3D printers and an entire woodworking shop to bring their transportation prototype to life. Industry experts served as coaches and mentors to provide real-world insight and training to the students. The Challenge concluded with students demonstrating their projects to their parents and a number of special guests from the education community and the transportation industry.
“Every child has a path and for some, university may not be the best fit,” observed Chevy Humphrey, the CEO of the Arizona Science Center. “This [Transportation Challenge] program gives youth opportunities to invent, design and fabricate materials for actual use. It also opens their eyes to alternate ways to become successful by leveraging their talents and passion.”
A Call to Action
“Understand that the whole founding point of this project was to establish an event that could be replicated and offered in other sites,” Dwyer noted. “The Technology Challenge events in Arizona were prototypes to introduce middle school through high school-aged learners to working with their hands in transportation situations. We had a lot of successes, but also encountered some problems that need to be resolved.”
“Here’s one bottleneck that concerns me,” he continued. “The ATMC task force trainers — who volunteered to develop the challenges the young students would face — typically teach older audiences comprised of working technicians, other shop staff and owners. We had some problems providing input and framing challenges at a level and context appropriate to younger students.”
“This problem could be offset by involving experts from our industry who work with young students every day, such as instructors from the North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT). “I see a real opportunity for NACAT members to help this initiative. Its members are virtually everywhere, a resource TechForce needs when it visits different locales. They’re also more attuned to teaching middle school, high school, vocational school and college aged students. And they’re ideally suited to developing challenges and serving as mentors for a couple of hours per week working with and challenging these young people to work with their hands. It’s a natural fit: It’s what they do, and it’s in their DNA.”
Watch this overview of the Transportation Challenge, designed to help middle- and high-school students connect STEM skills with today’s advancing automotive technology, and explore future career paths in the transportation industry.
Constructive Feedback Provides Traction
“Every child has a path and for some, university isn’t the best fit,” shared Chevy Humphrey, the CEO of the Arizona Science Center. “This [Transportation Challenge] program gives youth opportunities to invent, design, and fabricate materials for actual use. It also opens their eyes to alternate ways to become successful by leveraging their talents and passion.”
“Most young students, unfortunately, are relegated to the classroom,” noted Michael Romano, president of Universal Technical Institute’s campus in Avondale, AZ. “They don’t always have the opportunity to be exposed to a greater variety of experiences. Bringing them to a learning facility where they can use their hands to experiment and try different things will help them be better workers, better producers and have a more well-rounded education as a whole. And some of them may choose automotive as a pursuit.”
“There’s power in working as a team toward a common cause,” observed Eric Rogers, one of the Estrella Middle School teachers involved in the first Challenge. “Problem solving, applying divergent thinking and finding multiple solutions are key learning points for the students. In addition, collaborating and sharing can draw a better contribution from another team member that improves upon the original idea.”
At the end of January 2018, in between the two pilot events, the TechForce Foundation invited thirty leaders from national associations and upper-level industry executives to its inaugural annual summit of the FutureTech Success National Leadership Cabinet. “We’re so grateful to have the support, engagement and enthusiasm of leaders throughout the industry,” said Jennifer Maher, CEO and Executive Director of TechForce. “No one entity can fix the qualified technician shortage problem. We all must row in the same direction.”
The Summit group explored ways to implement and activate the campaign within their own companies and associations, and brainstorming collaborative ideas around which the whole industry can unite. It also unveiled its revamped website, which includes the FutureTech Resource Hub (a one-stop portal through which parents and future technicians can find after-school programs, technical schools, scholarships and other resources), as well as an Industry Hub (which enables industry recruiters, managers, working technicians and educators to connect with future technicians).
If you’re a shop owner, working technician or instructor up for the chance to make a difference, please contact Jennifer Maher at the TechForce Foundation
You don’t have to limit yourself to scholarships available through UTI. There are plenty of organizations out there looking to connect students like you with scholarship money for your technician training. Find out what local scholarship opportunities are available to you in your community (see Step 2) or check online scholarship search sites like scholarships.com and fastweb.com for more opportunities.
Third-party organizations offer these scholarships based on various qualification criteria, such as grade point average and competition outcomes.
TechForce Foundation Invests in the Workforce Readiness of Arkansas Diesel Technicians by Awarding $5,000 in Scholarship Funds to the Arkansas Trucking Association
TechForce Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit purposed with championing students as they pursue their technical education and careers as professional technicians in the transportation industry, has granted the Arkansas Trucking Association (ATA) $5,000 to award financially disadvantaged students with tuition scholarships so they may attend any of the accredited diesel/heavy truck technical programs throughout Arkansas.
The current technician shortage spans every inch of the industry, and the solution to this problem lies in unity. Through its support of the ATA, TechForce Foundation demonstrates its commitment to working closely with each facet of the world of transportation tech to be the voice of that united front.
Major industry pillars, such as trucking, have the power to drastically affect the overall health of the industry—and the diesel technicians in training today are the force that will uphold that pillar in the not-so-distant future. The logistics and transportation industry connects every corner of the nation, providing vital services through the distribution of the goods and materials utilized in virtually every aspect of the United States economy.
“Trucks have to keep rolling in order for the U.S. to maintain a healthy, stable economy, and diesel mechanics are what keep those trucks rolling,” explains Jennifer Maher, CEO of TechForce Foundation. “TechForce is partnering with the ATA to empower students pursuing education and careers as diesel technicians, and to ensure this highly-skilled workforce necessary to maintain our country’s economic stability is readily available.”
The ATA’s mission is straightforward: look out for the collective interests of the trucking industry through raising awareness of how integral the field is to the American economy and serve its members to promote growth and prosperity. TechForce Foundation’s message is much the same. The transportation industry plays a major role in so much more than the average individual is aware. It’s what keeps America moving forward, and the foundation of that movement is the technician workforce.
TechForce Foundation and the ATA look forward to the ways in which their partnership will aid aspiring diesel/heavy truck technicians on the road to achieving a quality technical education and becoming the industry’s much needed, highly-skilled workforce.
About TechForce Foundation
TechForce Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) with the mission to champion students to and through their technical education and into careers as professional technicians for the transportation industry. TechForce Foundation awards more than $1 million in scholarships and grants annually to students facing financial hardship so they may obtain their post-secondary technical education. Additionally, TechForce leads the FutureTech SuccessSM, campaign, an industry-wide initiative to drive tomorrow’s workforce of technicians by inspiring, supporting and connecting middle- and high-school students and their influencers with the resources to support their technical education and career development. For more information visitwww.techforce.org.
About Arkansas Trucking Association
The Arkansas Trucking Association (ATA) pursues its mission to advance the trucking industry’s image, efficiency, competitiveness and profitability through a comprehensive range of services, products and member benefits designed to help members compete and succeed. Members range from firms with 5 or fewer trucks to some of the nation’s largest freight and logistics companies. The ATA promotes the health of the Arkansas trucking industry on issues that have a direct impact on member companies and both state and national economies. The Association is owned and governed by more than 300 trucking companies and important industry suppliers.
“…unlike many high-tech careers that require four, six, or even eight years of college, automotive technology careers can begin after just two years of education. As with any career, lifelong learning and continuing education is necessary, but the simple fact is, students in automotive technology can get out into the real world sooner – and with less college debt.”
Jobs in automotive technology bring together two qualities that can be very difficult to find in a career; they are high-tech and accessible. Read more of Don’t Overlook Automotive Technology as a High-Tech Career Path, published by National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), to discover how automotive technology provides a world of opportunity to pursue high-tech, stable career paths.
General Motors has shown strong support for TechForce Foundation and our mission to encourage and support students pursuing post-secondary technical education and careers in the transportation industry. Their very generous grant of $140,000 will be poured into three exciting projects: the FutureTech Success SMcampaign, tuition scholarships for the UTI Avondale GM Advanced Training program, and a pilot after-school program with the Arizona Science Center.
General Motors places a huge emphasis on its support of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs in seeking to foster economic growth and sustainability among communities worldwide. However, STEM does not just apply to IT or engineering, as many might think, it applies to many other functions within the transportation industry as well. General Motors has recognized this as an opportunity to combine its mission to better communities worldwide with TechForce’s mission to support the technicians of tomorrow.
The transportation industry is growing at an exponential rate, and the need for skilled workers is in high demand. This provides a very promising future for those pursuing careers in the field. “If we can help individuals who are motivated to pursue this kind of challenge discover the industry and get excited about the vast opportunities it holds, we are one step closer to creating the smart, safe, and sustainable communities General Motors has long been dedicated to building,” explains Dan Hancock, retired General Motors Vice President and current President of TechForce Foundation’s Board of Directors.
In working together to achieve this goal, General Motors became one of eight Early Adopters supporting TechForce’s FutureTech Success campaign with a $50,000 donation.
This campaign, set to launch in May 2017, is TechForce Foundation’s surge to fuel the future pipeline of transportation technicians by giving individuals the tools to recognize and foster tactile intelligence, as well as get connected with the industry to discover what opportunities await them.
General Motors’ partnership with FutureTech Success shows its dedication to helping young people find good careers that they are passionate about, and that will provide them with a successful and fulfilling future. The transportation industry is a booming industry, saturated with technological advancements, which will be indispensable in constructing prosperous communities for future generations. General Motors has taken note of the very important role the transportation industry has the potential to play in its STEM-focused pursuit of global prosperity, and has shown incredible foresight in recognizing the future technicians FutureTech Success is purposed with cultivating as the backbone for such growth. General Motors’ support of FutureTech Success and its unwavering dedication to bettering the world through aiding technicians in achieving their dreams is both inspiring and greatly appreciated.
General Motors also donated an additional $40,000 to underwrite a pilot program with the Arizona Science Center as part of the FutureTech Success campaign. This after-school program will provide kids with the opportunity to experience tech in a hands-on, interactive way. “We believe that today’s youth constitute such an important aspect of General Motors’ mission to foster widespread economic growth and prosperity,” adds Hancock. “A program such as this one allows kids the chance to really experience and get excited about tech. An individual with high tactile intelligence, but less of an affinity for a ‘traditional classroom education,’ might get to experience the world of tech and fall in love with a career they didn’t even know existed.”
While General Motors has a specific interest in providing younger individuals with the education and skills vital to building brighter futures, they also make it a priority to come alongside current tech students. General Motors granted TechForce $50,000 dedicated to tuition scholarships for students pursing the GM Advanced Training program at Universal Technical Institute’s campus in Avondale, AZ.
From the very start of an individual’s love for working with their hands, to achieving the career and lifestyle they have always wanted, General Motors has committed to doing whatever it takes to help create widespread stability and prosperity. When today’s young people are supported and invested in, the future holds great things. General Motors and TechForce Foundation look forward to fostering such a future through supporting both current and future technicians as they pursue the education and careers of their dreams.
TechForce Foundation is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit that encourages and supports students pursuing post-secondary technical education and careers in the transportation industry. The Foundation distributes more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants annually, thanks to its generous corporate sponsors and donors. For more information visit
General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at
Concerns about a growing technician shortage aren’t new, and the problem’s not going to fix itself. We surveyed several industry leaders to get their opinions and well-reasoned solutions.
You might want to pour yourself a cup of coffee. In fact, you may want to brew a pot and call home to say you’ll be coming in late tonight. We have to talk about how to solve a shop challenge that we’ve known was coming, and it’s a big one.
Reports cite estimates of more than 600,000 middle-skill jobs going unfilled across the nation and we look like we’re in this group. We’ve had dozens of applicants for our technician openings and most seem unqualified. The industry-endorsed NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation) generates approximately 30,000 graduates each year, and even with a boost from private automotive tech training schools, we’re still in need of new solutions. How did we get here and, more importantly, what can we do?
It’s notable that a century ago, in 1917, the United States Congress established a milestone priority to support hands-on learning titled the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act. While this major federal act was aimed mainly at supporting educating youth for farming and agriculture, it led to successive Congressional support for training our nation’s skilled workers through the 20th century. Yet today, few would question deep concerns about the state of our nation’s skilled workforce.
A century ago, 90% of our nation worked in careers to provide 100% of our food supply; today 10% of our population produces 100% of our food stock. Meanwhile, the U.S. has mostly consolidated around metropolitan settings away from farms and largely relies on vehicles and public transportation. “We say we have an issue. It’s not just an issue, it’s a crisis,” said Chris Hadfield, Director of the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence. “For every two technicians retiring, we have only one new entry coming in.”
Education policymakers and national leaders largely report that what is called Career Technical Education (CTE) is undergoing a renaissance needed in today’s public education. Jarrod Nagurka, Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager at the Association for Career and Technical Education, noted that from “both an employer value and practical relevance to keep kids in school, CTE works. The average high school graduation rate for Career Technical Education concentrators in 2012 was 93%, compared to the national graduation rate of 80% for other students. So a career in technical education benefits students in a variety of ways.”
Well, if CTE is worthy and the nation values it, why have we slipped backwards with our workforce? And perhaps more importantly, what can we do to help solve this for our industry?
Fast forward to 2017 and our current national Perkins Fund under Congress is a distant relative of the Smith-Hughes act. While Europe and other regions of the globe have sustained or grown their skilled workforce education and apprenticeship programs, the U.S. has reduced funding and now faces an unprecedented dilemma.
The Perkins Act is the federal government’s largest investment in technical education, but annual funding reauthorization has remained flat for 25 years. Kimberly Green, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based organization Advance CTE, told us, “Since the Perkins funding has remained at pretty much the same level since 1991, it actually represents a 45% reduction when we factor inflation-adjusted dollars.”
We can see that at the end of a long day of discussions about automotive service anywhere across the nation, we’re likely to agree that public education is facing limitations. And it doesn’t look like reinforcements are coming from public education soon enough. A substantial and largely untapped opportunity is for us to get involved in new ways in our local communities, and there are many schools and young people who need us to reach out to them today.
Bill Haas, owner of Haas Performance Consulting, said, “We’ve been talking about this crisis for a good 15 years to my recollection, but I think it’s taken 15 years to get some people’s attention.” He added, “This problem of not having people enter the industry used to be masked by having enough people move around from shop to shop, but in the industry technicians are no longer moving among shops like they used to.”
Meanwhile, so long as everyday motorists hold antiquated images and myths about our industry, they’re largely unaware of the advancements of today’s technicians. Tony Molla, Vice President of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), observed, “From the general public’s point of view, nobody has had any trouble getting their cars fixed. So it really hasn’t been seen as a problem. But two things have changed. One is that vehicle technology has become much more complicated over a very short period of time and many technicians have had trouble keeping up with it. The second challenge is that the vast majority of techs who are servicing vehicles in our country are Baby Boomers, and I think that the attrition factor is kicking in.” Molla said the emerging problem is essentially finding qualified people with the skills to do the high-end work.
Another aspect of attracting youth into our field is being able to retain them once they’ve joined us. Haas noted, “The really astute shop owners have figured it out. They’re thinking, If I have this qualified guy who has the skills and the knowledge, I’d better do everything in my power to make sure he has no reason to leave.”
Haas said that today’s most astute shop owners have improved their technician benefits to now include retirement programs, health insurance, paid holidays and time off with vacations.