According to a new report, the shortage of automotive technicians is much more severe than previously calculated, and it will take at least two or three more years for the recovery to begin.
The TechForce Foundation commissioned a report to detail the shortage in large part because statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) haven’t provided an accurate view.
The foundation says the discrepancy was caused by two key factors:
- The demand projections were calculated for a 10-year period, and an average annual amount was calculated for each of those 10 years. “By averaging over such a long period however, much of the cyclicality of demand is greatly minimized. The new TechForce projections provide annual projections by year and eliminate the averages, allowing for better planning by employers.
- The BLS had underestimated the demand for replacing technicians who were promoted to other jobs, those who retired, and those who decided to find a new career. (The BLS has revised its methodology and its new projections for 2016-2026 reflect that, the foundation says.)
What’s caused the demand?
The report says the automotive industry was hit with a “perfect storm” of factors that caused an increase in demand for technicians:
- The economy: A strong, growing economy has created more demand for the automotive sector, as well as other transportation service sectors.
- Playing catch up: Many technicians left the workforce as a result of the Great Recession of 2008. The demand to re-fill those positions comes on top of regular demand.
- Other: There’s been a stabilization in the factors that earlier reduced demand: greater vehicle reliability, dealer consolidation and longer maintenance intervals. The increasing complexity of vehicles has made the need for technician training more critical. “On-the-job training is only sufficient for the least-skilled positions.”
The BLS now estimates demand for entrant automotive technicians from 2016 to 2016 is 75,900 – more than triple the agency’s prior estimate.
TechForce Foundation says the demand since 2013 has been particularly higher due to the recovery since the Great Recession.
One big problem, the foundation points out, is that the BLS didn’t account enough for those leaving technicians jobs. The BLS assigned an annual replacement rate of 2.7% of total technicians – which the TechForce Foundation says is “hardly enough to cover baby boom retirements alone.”
TechForce says credible numbers for new entrant technicians are needed by the industry itself, but also as a way to “convince educators, regulators, politicians, parents, students, career counselors and others that great job opportunities exist, and that career and technical education is vital.”