Auto industry struggles to hire more mechanics

The shortage conjures up a lot of interest in the Newgate School in Minneapolis, where they train the next generation of automotive technicians.

MINNEAPOLIS — Supply chain issues and shortages — it’s a refrain we’re hearing a lot lately, and the auto industry isn’t immune.

Companies say they’re still struggling to hire mechanics, and it’s causing longer wait times for repairs.

This shortage has brought a lot of interest to the Newgate School in Minneapolis, where they train the next generation of automotive technicians.

“It can be daily sometimes that someone reaches out to us,” executive director Blythe Severson says.

Blythe says the calls started picking up about a year ago.

It’s been good for their students, because they have had plenty of jobs to choose from.

“They’re not having any trouble. We’re at 100% placement right now with all of our students,” Severson says.

According to the TechForce Foundation, the demand for technicians has nearly doubled since the pandemic with companies looking for 258,000 technicians in 2021.

Before the pandemic, the number of job openings was outnumbering job seekers by a ratio of 3-to-1.

According to TechForce, that ratio is now around 5-to-1.

JD Power says this shortage is adding one extra day of wait time to the average repair job nationwide.

Meanwhile, the average age of automotive technicians is still relatively high.

“There’s about three people retiring out of the industry for every one person who is available to come into the industry,” Severson says.

Besides these issues, Severson says the job has become more challenging in recent years.

Modern vehicles feature several computer chips and high-tech systems that often require additional training and expertise.

“There are a lot of skills they need. It’s really a technical skill to do this job,” Severson says.

This increased pressure is one reason why the turnover rate for automotive technicians is relatively high.

According to a recent report from Carlisle Co., nearly a third of automotive technicians leave their job within a year.

Supervisors have an even higher turnover rate that’s closer to 50%.

According to the report, pay is also a big issue, but Severson says the industry is starting to make some headway there.

“I would say since the pandemic, we have seen pay increase for a lot of companies. Now we’re seeing wages that are competitive and most shops and dealerships that we’re dealing with are providing for really good benefit packages,” Severson says.

The industry could also use more training programs like theirs, Severson says.

Despite the shortage of workers in the industry, she says there is currently a waiting list to get into Newgate.

“Right now we have 25 to 30 students and there are more waiting to get in,” Severson explains.

While they’re not seeing a shortage of students coming in Newgate, one thing they are seeing a shortage of is donated vehicles.

They school relies on donated vehicles so the students can have projects to work on.

The school also sells those vehicles once they’re fixed up and that’s how they’re able to keep tuition free.

Severson says most of their students would not be able to go to another school because they wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition.

Newgate is requesting additional vehicles to keep their students working so they can do their part in addressing this ongoing short of technicians in the industry.

For more information about the Newgate School, click here.

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