I think we can all agree the United States has a shortage of skilled labor, and the automotive industry is feeling the crunch as much as any other industry. It’s estimated 100,000 technicians are leaving the industry every year, with only 25,000 entering. If you do the math, that’s a gaping hole. One reason for this is that the automobile technician of today’s world has changed dramatically. Today’s technician must be able to use his/her body to perform repairs, and also use their experience and education to see into the mind of an increasingly autonomous machine. How do they do it? Sometimes I don’t even know. How do we find these guys, and what do we look for? It’s incredibly difficult. As with many things, it starts locally. We need guidance counselors to not be afraid to recommend smart and talented students consider a two-year degree in the trades. As an owner, I’m looking for technicians who possess a college education in automotive technology. Then they will be required to be master certified once properly trained. I also look for professionalism demonstrated through a willingness to learn while they continue their education, as proven by their completion of certification, training seminars and memberships of trade organizations.
One well known organization is ASE. ASE is an initialism used by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. This non-profit institute works to improve the quality of automotive repair and service. To become ASE certified in one area, a technician first must verify two years of repair experience in the field, then take and pass the ASE test for that particular system. A technician becomes master-certified after passing eight tests. All ASE certifications are valid for 5 years, and after that the technician must retake and pass the updated test to be recertified on that particular system. Today’s automobiles are so technologically advanced that many technicians are certified in just one or two areas. Technicians can test and receive certification on any of the nine general automotive areas: Engine Repair, Automatic Transmission/Transaxle, Manual Drive Train and Axles, Suspension and Steering, Brakes, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Heating and Air Conditioning, Engine Performance, and Light Vehicle Diesel Engines. Diesel is not required, but is offered as a separate test. Additionally, there is an Advanced Engine Performance Specialist Certification (L1) offered only to those techs which pass the Engine Performance test. The advanced test identifies those techs possessing the knowledge and skills for diagnosis of complex driveability and emissions-related problems. ASE recently announced their new test for hybrid vehicles, offering yet another area for today’s technician to demonstrate his or her competence.
The automotive technician of today’s world must possess a brilliance which could rival that of the most complex professions. Because of this fact there’s never been more opportunity for the professionals which make up our workforce. Cars, trucks, and modern machinery are increasingly complex. The technicians that can correctly identify problems and solutions and put their hands to work making the repairs are going to command higher pay and benefits. Couple this with the rising costs of diagnostic tools and equipment and we’ll all find the cost of repair on the rise. This brings me to some good news: Preventative maintenance will save you more money than ever before!
If you or someone you know seems like a good fit for the industry, don’t hesitate to send them my way. I love talking about careers in my industry. I’m fortunate to know several high school shop teachers, and I know they too are always looking for bright kids with which to work.