Americans are driving more, and keeping their cars longer, than ever before. Not surprisingly, demand for skilled technicians to service them has risen to match this trend.
But the cars, trucks, and motorcycles of today are far different than those of a generation ago. Even vehicles that are a decade old or more have high-end computers that require significant technical skills from the workers who will service them. Service technicians today must keep up with the latest innovations across a wide range of makes and models.
So what has moved the industry from blue collar to new collar?
Rapid Technological Advancement
The inner workings of these vehicles have undergone a tremendous technological shift in the last decade. A discipline that was once primarily mechanical now spreads across several highly technical fields, meaning today’s techs have to be part mechanic, part electronics wizard and part IT support specialist. Advanced diagnostic equipment now helps techs troubleshoot complex systems; sometimes in just minutes.
Hybrid cars and trucks are some of the most obvious examples of this trend. But other innovations have come along, including smartphone integration, in-car HD television systems, and a whole host of automated safety features. And the modern repair shop has adapted to this shift—many now have as many computers as they do tool boxes.
But all the new equipment in the world won’t actually fix a Toyota or a Tesla. A diagnostic tool can provide useful information as to the source of the problem, but it takes a well-trained tech to interpret and act on its findings.
As the demand for transportation techs grows, so do their salaries.
Vocational training can be a key factor in preparing technicians for potentially higher-paying careers. As with any entry level job, starting pay may be modest, but broaden your skill set, get some experience under your belt, and add a few advanced certifications and that number might quickly climb up into six figures. According to the ASE Training Managers Council (ATMC) 2019 Training Benchmark Survey, nearly 50 percent of responding technicians are earning $60,000 annually or higher. And the news gets even better. Nearly 21 percent reported earnings of $80,000 or higher, while nearly 7 percent are earning $100,000 or more! It’s a workers’ market, and potential employers are having to offer top dollar for top talent.
Investment in Future Leaders
To supplement the pool of talent coming out of high schools and vocational schools, companies are taking steps to recruit their own next generation of workers.
- The Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) program is a long-standing and well-respected industry training program. In this partnership between Ford and Universal Technical Institute (UTI), students spend one year gaining general automotive knowledge followed by a 15-week capstone course with specialized Ford curriculum. The FACT program is known for its strong focus on electrical/electronics fundamentals.
- The GM ASEP program has been running since 1979, producing over 17,000 automotive service technicians. It runs in numerous community and technical colleges across the country. Students alternate between classroom training and hands on work experience at a GM dealership or ACDelco Professional Service Center. GM also offers a shorter, 12-week Technician Career Training program where graduates can earn GM course credits towards Bronze, Silver and Gold certification.
- The Mercedes-Benz DRIVE Technician Training and Development Program prepares entry-level technicians to pursue a career at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and is paid for by Mercedes-Benz. This 16-week training program is highly focused on hands-on time spent in the workshop. Following successful completion of the program and 6 months of experience at an MB dealer, graduates are fully-qualified as a MB Systems Technician.
- NISSAN offers factory training with NISSAN and ASE Certifications, as well as dealership apprenticeship opportunities through its Nissan Technician Training Academy (NTTA). They also offer Nissan Automotive Technician Training (NATT), a 9-week entry-level training program available through four Universal Technical Institute (UTI) campuses. NATT is also supported by Nissan through scholarships. The program has graduated over 4,300 students since its inception.
- The Toyota Technician Training and Education Network (T-TEN) program was launched in 1986 to develop technicians for Toyota and Lexus dealerships. This partnership between Toyota, community colleges, vocational schools and dealerships also offers internship and placement assistance. Students have the opportunity to earn an Associate of Science Degree. Additionally, the Toyota Professional Automotive Technician (TPAT) 12-week program is offered at UTI’s Sacramento campus for those seeking a shorter course.
A Vocational Path to Success
If a career on the leading edge of transportation technology appeals to your child, then a vocational or trade school may be a good fit. Our FutureTech Roadmap guide can help them find their way to a successful path in the industry.