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Ongoing technician shortage continues to pose challenges

New reports are highlighting the consequences of the ongoing collision, auto, and diesel technician shortages including at least one college recently pausing its collision repair program due to low enrollment.

As the industry works to fill critical roles, details continue to emerge and highlight how available talent is affecting their businesses.

A 2022 survey commissioned by the Collision Engineering Program (CEP) indicated that there is a lack of awareness about collision repair careers, although people are open to exploring them. It found just 17% of survey respondents were “very familiar” with collision repair or engineering. The survey revealed that those who were familiar with the industry were more likely to pursue a career within it.

It also found that respondents with less than 10 years of work experience were more likely to switch their careers to collision engineering when compared to others who’ve worked in a separate industry for more than a decade.

Fox Business noted in a recent report that if the automotive repair shortage continues to worsen, it’s likely to keep exacerbating wait times and driving up the cost of repairs.

“We’re starting to see a lot of the old timers time out of this repair industry,” Scott Benavidez, Automotive Service Association chairman, told the outlet. “And it’s really getting scary for our community.”

Nolan Bailey, manager of Emily’s Garage, told Fox that the situation has been difficult since the pandemic and that it’s now a struggle to fill a job vacancy.

“Usually, you could put out an application and when people are work hungry, you’d get 20, 30 applicants maybe in a week or two,” Bailey said. “In [our] case, we got maybe four or five applicants over the course of two months.”

Meanwhile, the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center (LCCTC) in New Castle, Pennsylvania suspended its auto collision repair program for 2023-24 due to low enrollment and difficulty retaining an instructor, according to local reports.

The center, which offered a three-year program in collision repair, yielded just three graduates this year while a single student remained enrolled, according to New Castle News.

Automakers, colleges, and trade organizations have been working to combat low enrollment in recent years through programs aimed at incentivizing young talent to join the industry. For example:

    • The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Minnesota (AASP-MN) is helping train the next generation of collision repairers through 22 newly-awarded scholarships;
    • Hyundai is partnering with Savannah Technical College to develop a new electric vehicle training program to give students a shot at being hired on with the automaker;
    • Last year, about 120 people pursuing careers in collision repair and other segments of the automotive industry received help paying for their education through the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund; and
    • Enterprise Holdings, through the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, has partnered with the Ford Motor Company Fund to add a seventh college to the CEP.

And LCCTC isn’t alone in struggling to hire and retain collision repair instructors.

In April, Laura Garcia-Moreyra, an automotive technology instructor at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), spoke about the difficulty her school had filling vacant positions.

She said the college has been trying to recruit instructors to educate students about vehicle repairs for months, with little luck. One listing posted in January received just one external application.

Garcia-Moreyra told Repairer Driven News that the shortage is caused by a “lack of qualified techs in the field [and] pay that is less than what a top tech in the field would earn.” She added the role requires a variety of office and people skills.

“All topics have vacancies, even our entry-level safety class,” she said, adding people are discouraged from applying because it’s “too far to drive, not enough pay and [candidates] don’t want to do associated administration work.”

Laura Lozano, of Contra Costa College (CCC), said her employer has been struggling to fill instructor roles for years. Last month, the college celebrated a win after the first five students in its Collision Engineering program graduated, marking a huge accomplishment for the school and a bright future for the students.

The automotive industry is no stranger to talent shortages, as it has grappled for decades with how to attract and retain skilled workers. A Techforce study found that while 232,000 techs were needed in 2021 across automotive, diesel, and collision repair, schools were graduating only 42,000. In collision alone, the demand was 35,000 techs while only 4,500 graduated.


Featured photo credit: Nicky Loyd/iStock

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