There's a shortage of skilled auto technicians nationwide. Something that at first you might not think will impact you. That is until you discover how long it takes to schedule your regular car maintenance service or suddenly find your vehicle is in need of unexpected repairs that can't happen soon enough to fit your schedule. Or maybe scheduling your appointment went ok, but then you find yourself in the waiting room for hours. All scenarios that could be due in part to a shortage of repair shop technicians.
Training Tomorrow's Auto Techs
That's where the North Texas Automobile Dealers (NTXAD) and its partners come in. They've joined forces to help encourage and provide support to the next generation of auto technicians. Those efforts include NTXAD's annual Auto Tech Competition. The 3rd annual event took place in early December and involved 40 high school auto tech teams from around North Texas. We shared the winners with you last week.
The multi-faceted competition is designed specifically for high school seniors and both scholarships (funded by the Carroll Shelby Foundation) and other prizes are up for grabs. It's also where students can network at career day and launch their future in the automotive industry.
"We are committed to providing a holistic education experience to help students develop both the technical and soft skills they will need to achieve a successful career in the automotive industry. During the competition, students are tested in numerous categories pertaining to vehicle service and diagnosis/repair, as well as job interview skills,” said NTXAD Education Committee Chairman Tony Pack in the event press release.
Part of the program is pairing final teams with local new-car franchised dealerships which mentor and train students for the competition. George Arrants, Vice President of the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Education Foundation, explains.
George Arrants, Vice President ASE Education Foundation : "First of all, we give the students a great stage to demonstrate the skills and lessons that they've learned. But also what we do is we provide an opportunity for students to experience the workplace with partnering with our local dealers, to learn more about modern technology and the technology needed to fix today's modern automobiles. And once we've completed that, then we bring them here to showcase those skills. But it's really about partnerships, partnering schools and businesses to grow our future workforce."
Auto Tech Shortage
NTXAD says there's a need for auto technicians nationwide, including North Texas.
Credit: Shutterkings Photography.
“There is a shortage of qualified auto techs across North Texas, and NTXAD is working to create a pipeline of skilled technicians through our annual Auto Tech Competition and other educational programs,” said NTXAD Board Chairman Charlie Gilchrist in the event press release. “As the technology for new cars has advanced, the need for highly skilled technicians has grown substantially. Automotive technology is a respected career field with high earning potential.”
Arrants further explains while high school automotive programs have no lack of students, not all of them make it into the workforce.
Arrants: "A lot of people believe there is a skill shortage and if you look around these programs are full. Last year in Texas alone, we had over 22,000 Students taking auto tech at the high school level, the mind you all of them did not make it to the workforce ......part of their education. But part of what we're trying to do here is get more of them to continue through their, their training and go on to either post secondary community college or manufacturing or directly into the industry. The Dealers Association here has taken a leadership role. And decided to create this competition and work with their dealer members to form partnerships between schools and dealers, to let these students experience the workplace while they're still in high school. And that's what's really important. "
Providing Real-World Experience
One of the Auto Tech Competition's participating dealers and workstation sponsors is the Sewell Automotive Companies. Karen Cook is Sewell's Director of Recruitment. (CarPro Certified Dealer Sewell Audi of McKinney mentored one of the participating teams.)
Karen Cook, Director of Recruitment for Sewell Automotive Companies: "It's great to get everyone excited about this career path. And again, it is a career it's not just a job. And so seeing getting them into the industry or really teaching them and training them and then seeing successful technicians and so we've had the opportunity to have three of our stores paired up with local high schools, and they've been working on the ground in the stores in the dealerships, learning from the best of the best who've been doing this for many years, and seeing them help and inspire them and to show them that this is something that they can invest in heavily now at an early age to really be set up for the future."
Getting students out of the classroom and into the real-world is a key goal of the program.
Arrants: "We at ASC have a registered apprenticeship and we know that students that are experienced the workplace while they're in school, they stay with our our industry for decades. Those students that just go to school graduate on Friday go to work on Tuesday. We lose about 41% of those in the first two years because they had no real work experience. And there's the differential. So this provides that work experience for them for at least six to eight weeks. And some of the students have already been offered jobs by the dealers based on their performance just visiting and working with the local technicians in the shop."
Cook says Sewell hired several students from last year's competition.
Cook: "We did hire a couple students from this competition last year and they're doing phenomenally well now in our stores and we're really hoping to find some more great associates that we can add to our team and our shops this year. What's really appealing and I can speak through specifically for Sewell Automotive Companies is that we do provide the training and so we want them to come in excited and eager also with a drive to be the best and so from there, we'll help train them in our shops. With equipment, tools as this environment is ever changing, as we've seen, and so really important that we're going to support them the whole way through their career for schooling and all the training needed. "
These days in the age of vehicle electrification, being an auto technician means being on the forefront of new technology.
Cook: "Based on the industry, we've got EVs, which are very common right now we're seeing them a lot in our stores. And so again, letting uh new technicians who want to get into this industry know that we're going to be here to help give them that training and that support that they need, even for these electric vehicles. And so I think knowing that helps inspire them that this is not a huge mountain that they're gonna have to climb by themselves. We're going to help support them to do it. So really, the job market has not changed too much for us just and what we're seeing with our candidates that are coming to look for an opportunity with Sewell and then what we can also help provide them with."
Life As An Auto Tech
So what is it like to be an automotive technician? Cook shares some insight into what to expect and says teamwork comes into play.
Cook: "Every day is different. And so it could be a busier one day, slower the other day, but there's always something that can be doing and learning. And so on the days that might be still slower it's learning some different school skills or trades or working on more difficult diagnosis, and so there's always something to keep busy with to help continue improving yourself, to set yourself up for the next difficult vehicle that might come in, that you're always going to be moving. And so I think in the eagerness to continue moving, and not the office type of physician that that many would want, but if you like moving, working for hands, it's problem solving. Working as a team is another big aspect of it. Is that it's not an individual job, at least that's how we see it. It's a team performance again, how we help each other in our shops get the end result which is presenting the car fixed and perfectly ready for our customers and how they need it."
At the end of the day Arrants says the Auto Tech Competition is about two things.
Arrants: "The kids that walk away with a job offer or students more engaged in the industry and said, Wow, all I knew was what I learned in the classroom. Now I see what the real world has to offer in the career opportunities. We are blessed as an industry. We don't have a career ladder like most industries, we have a career lattice. Once you get the basic skills you can go anywhere in this industry. In 1976, I graduated from high school and went to work in an independent shop. Today I'm talking to you. So there is no limitations in our industry, and students need to understand that it it is an amazing career track."
For more information about the competition visit the North Texas Automobile Dealers website.
Photo Credit: Shutterkings Photography.
Video Courtesy: NTXAD / Sunwest PR.