Tire dealerships and auto repair shops that are not actively involved in a school or apprenticeship program can still help the cause, she said.
"We're asking that if we create the resources, will you please just use your own local marketing muscle to get the word out. Because one of the big problems is the stigma."
Parents and school counselors generally discourage students from pursuing careers in the automotive aftermarket or they encourage students to attend college.
"We really have to start dispelling the myths. It is not the job of yesterday. (Vehicles) are computers on wheels. These are STEM careers," she said. "It takes intelligence and problem-solving to be a really awesome tech today and in the future.
"So if we create a video that shows the benefits of becoming a tech, but it never sees the light of day, shame on us all. If we create a flyer, and it never goes out, shame on us all. So at TechForce.org we put up these marketing materials free of charge and say, 'Industry, please push them.'"
Shops can, for example, visit the website and download a flyer to include with a customer invoice that provides information and resources about a technician career.
She said that if shops distributed flyers and hung posters in their waiting rooms to celebrate technicians and promote what it's like to work as a tech, maybe some customers will think the career is a possible option for their sons or daughters and then visit the resource hub.
"That's that ripple effect in grassroots marketing that really can turn into a movement versus thinking someone is going to buy an ad and solve this whole thing on television. It's not going to work that way," Ms. Maher said.
If shops want to get more involved with local schools but don't have the time or the personnel to create a program, Ms. Maher offered TechForce's help in doing the "leg work" for things such as setting up after-hours programs, connecting with local schools and helping facilitate and coordinate details for projects like a mentor program or apprenticeship.
"The most successful is not a one-hit wonder. You don't just show up once a year and give a speech and think you've changed anything," she said. "You kind of have to have a strategy and a plan and work smarter and not harder. And we hope that's by allowing TechForce to help you."
The organization also sponsors "Techs Who Rock" awards to honor working technicians who mentor and inspire the next generation of technicians.
"What if every shop in America nominated one of their techs who rocks? We would again be talking to the technicians, having them be part of their community, celebrating them, recognizing them. But if your shop won't even go online and nominate your techs, then together, collectively, we're that pipsqueak," Ms. Maher said.
She also encouraged shop owners to evaluate their pay rates for technicians in order to retain techs in their shops and in the industry. "We are losing technicians because other industries are paying more and steal them."
Retention involves "investing in your people, giving them a pathway to succeed, especially when talking about millennials and Gen Z. This is a generation that is no longer willing to work in good faith. … They don't have blind loyalty," she said, noting that employers need to provide them with a career plan within the company.
"If you're going to throw them on the lube rack for four years and just let them rot, then you have no plan. So I think training and a (career) road map is how you are going to invest in them and move them along, because if you don't have that road map, if you can't articulate that, they're not going to come to work for you or they're not going to stay. They want to know 'What is the game plan?' And they are not wrong to ask. If I work here for three years, what is going to happen?"
Ms. Maher sees the pendulum swinging back, so to speak, to where schools and society are realizing the skilled trades need to be encouraged. Some students do not learn well in a four-year college setting; some students cannot afford a college education; and some students learn better with hands-on training.
"People are starting to go, 'Oh, my goodness, we have drank the Kool-Aid for 30 years that there is only one road to success: sending every kid to a four-year university with college debt rising.' It is not what it used to be where you just go off, spend a couple thousand dollars and have four years of finding yourself and coming out with a degree of whatever and still being successful.
"Now you're coming out with a degree and $100,000 in debt with a job that doesn't exist," she said, noting there is a perfect storm of people now realizing the education system "killed the skilled trades, saddled kids with debt and educated them for jobs that no longer exist. We've done a disservice."
But she said it is up to the automotive industry to band together to promote its skilled trades and education.
"If we wait for the Department of Education to fix education, we'll be waiting forever. So that's why we challenge and say it's the right time for the industry and the non-profits and the schools — let us help remake those auto shop programs by having the industry donating (time and equipment) and TechForce getting in there and working with the auto shops and the instructors."
In 2018 TechForce released a study, based on an analysis of National Center for Education Statistics' 2011-2016 data, about the ongoing shortage of new entrant technicians and the growing gap between supply and demand.
The report noted that auto tech post-secondary education completions have been declining since 2013. There were an estimated 38,829 graduates in 2016 in contrast to the projected Bureau of Labor Statistics new entrant demand of 75,900, according to the report.
TechForce's origins date back to 2005 as Universal Technical Institute Drive Foundation with a mission to promote technical training and driving safety. The next year it was renamed Universal Technical Institute Foundation and began offering scholarships and educational equipment to high schools. In 2016 the non-profit changed its name to TechForce.
In 2018 the organization launched its FutureTech Success campaign and it annually awards about $1.5 million in scholarships and grants.
The futuretechsuccess.org hub offers videos about automotive professions; links to tech schools, competitions and events; and listings of scholarships, grants, mentoring programs, internships, apprenticeships and job listings.
Corporate supporters include Bridgestone Americas, Snap-on Inc., AutoZone Inc. and various auto makers and automotive suppliers.
To bolster its mission, TechForce late last year formed an alliance with America's Automotive Trust (AAT), under the leadership of Ms. Maher. The AAT is made up of four founding members: LeMay - America's Car Museum, RPM Foundation, Club Auto and Concours Club.
The strategic alliance is designed to achieve three primary objectives — unite complementary goals under a single unified vision, streamline cost efficiencies and concentrate those efficiencies on providing a greater impact on the organizations' missions.
Ms. Maher said the alliance with AAT "takes us to a whole other level."
"Non-profits should collaborate around a common cause so we can make more purposeful impact instead of reinventing the wheel. There are 1.6 million charities in this country, we don't need another one, and maybe we should start working together.
"So you look at these other three non-profits whose mission is really about building the car culture and getting the next generation of enthusiasts to love cars, just like the collectible community of today loves cars. ... So now they are under the umbrella, so you can get young people excited about cars and the car culture and the community," she said.
"So that's why it made sense to join forces and get young people excited and exposed to cars again and passionate about cars. … By joining forces, you have one marketing department, not four. You have one resource and fundraising team, not four. … We all have a common mission: Let's work together and let's use our heads and our resources more wisely."
To introduce kids to the car culture, the organization has been working with schools, after-school programs and youth organizations to introduce them to cars and connect them with car enthusiasts.