Demand is high – and growing – for auto technicians

Like so many other skilled trades fields these days, automotive technicians are in high demand — and there’s a talent gap between jobs posted and available workers to fill them.

In Southeast Michigan, employers such as car dealerships and body shops have posted 777 open jobs in the first six months of this year, and this time last year were seeking more than 1,200 mechanics and technicians. That’s according to data tracked by the Detroit-based Workforce Intelligence Network.

As is the case with industrial jobs like machining and welding, for at least a generation, parents have discouraged their children from entering the auto service world, pushing them toward white-collar jobs even though many technical degrees yield better salaries than many college degrees, said Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the Leesburg, Va.-based National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which certifies technicians.

Demand will grow in the future; about half of all technicians will be eligible to retire within 15 years.

“If there is such a thing as job security, it’s in the trades,” said Molla, also noting that garages compete for mechanics not just with each other, but also the aerospace industry.

The mean annual salary for automotive technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is about $39,000, and Molla said that’s on the low side compared to industry numbers he’s seen.

Al Lecz, director of employer strategies at WIN, said all nine community colleges in the Southeast Michigan Community College Consortium have automotive service training programs, with Macomb Community College‘s Center for Advanced Automotive Technology premier among them. The nine colleges in the consortium are Macomb, Mott Community CollegeOakland Community CollegeSt. Clair Community CollegeWayne County Community College DistrictHenry Ford Community College, Monroe County Community College, Schoolcraft College and Washtenaw Community College.

Other resources include the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and NATEF-accredited schools; the Automotive Training Managers Council; and automotive manufacturers, which operate internal training programs. General Motors Co.‘s is called the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program.

July 21, 2013 | Crain’s Detroit Business