PHOENIX — The demand for professional vehicle service technicians continues to increase but there is a declining supply of new techs entering the industry, according to a new report by the nonprofit TechForce Foundation.
Confirming what many auto service businesses already suspected, the "2020 Transportation Technician Supply & Demand Report" claims the transportation technician shortage continues to worsen.
The 2020 report supplements the foundation's previous reports, adjusting prior projections to reflect research from the National Center for Education Statistics and TechForce's own analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
The new report concludes that the technician shortage is increasing in severity despite a slight uptick in new post-secondary degrees and certificates for future diesel technicians.
"Although demand is strong, with 642,000 auto/diesel/collision techs needed between 2020 and 2024, the shortage continues to worsen. The good news is these careers have been deemed essential by the government, and the transportation industry is organizing to do something about the shortage," TechForce CEO Jennifer Maher said.
"TechForce's campaigns are leveraging the industry's collective voice to inspire the next generation of technicians and address the root causes of the shortage."
Recent surveys show an increased interest in transportation technology work, both among younger students and career changers whose jobs may have been lost or furloughed because of the pandemic, the foundation said. Surveys of high school students show that more than half are open to something other than a four-year degree.
"Our projections do not reflect potential impact from the COVID-19 pandemic," according to Greg Settle, TechForce director of national initiatives, who wrote the report. "However, we are seeing indications of increased interest in technical program enrollments. With our next report at year-end, we expect to be able to provide further insight into COVID-19-related trends."
The report addresses projected annual demand for new entrant technicians in the automotive, collision and diesel fields. "New entrant" technicians are those entering the occupation for the first time, as opposed to experienced technicians who may be switching employers but don't increase the number of technicians available in the occupation.
New entrants primarily come from postsecondary training programs, high-school shop programs or "off-the-street," with no training.
According to the latest BLS projections, new entrant automotive technician demand is expected to wane slightly from 2018 to 2028. In 2018, there were 770,100 auto technicians employed in the U.S. and by 2028, that number is expected to drop to 763,600, indicating demand will level off, according to the report.
By 2021 new entrant demand is projected to reach 77,936; by 2024 new entrant demand is predicted to reach 81,908, based on 77,926 replacement positions and 3,983 new positions.
"As in the past, the majority of new entrant demand continues to come from replacement positions, created by the retirement of baby boomers, as well as turnover," the report stated, as opposed to growth within the industry.
"An additional factor to note is that the BLS Replacement Rate went up from 9.2% in their 2016 report to 9.7% in the most current (2018) report. Therefore, retirements and turnover are having an even greater impact than seen previously," the report said.
The overall shortage continues at similar levels as in the past several years.
"In quantifying supply, the only reliable numbers that can be tracked are postsecondary completions of technical programs. There are no reliable numbers available for high school shop programs, which also provide a source of new entrant technicians, or for those who come 'off-the-street' with no formal technical education," the report said, noting, "some postsecondary technical school graduates never go into industry, so these anomalies offset each other to some degree. In the end, we are still faced with the same issue, supply is woefully short in meeting the needs of industry."
The TechForce report suggested several sustainable solutions for the near and long term:
- Focus as an industry on increasing awareness of the career opportunities that exist for new entrant transportation technicians;
- Turn that awareness into interest;
- Turn that interest into enrollments in high school and postsecondary training programs;
- Engage with schools to bring their students into mentorships and apprenticeships to bridge the students' gap between education and industry;
- Turn those mentorships and apprenticeships into employees; and
- Retain those employees through competitive pay, good benefits and a great company culture focused on caring for employees.