According to the TechForce Foundation’s 2022 Transportation Technician Supply and Demand Report, more than 113,000 entry-level collision technicians will be needed by 2026.
During one of three sessions of the OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit hosted by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) on Thursday, TechForce CEO Jennifer Maher said that in 2021 there would be 232,000 technicians in the automotive, diesel and collision fields would be needed, but the schools would have graduated only 42,000.
“If we just look at the collision, it’s 35,000 technicians,” she said. “New applicants are needed each year just to keep up with demand, but schools only graduate 4,500. So, I mean, the pond is dry. …it has to be a collaboration between industry nonprofits, education, some kind of come together and say, we have to invest in that.”
Helping students explore the automotive industry is key, Maher added. She told Repairer Driven News that stores can partner with organizations like TechForce that are already connected to students. Schools need speakers, companies at career fairs, company tours and apprenticeships. “But at the same time you’re busy. You run your shop, so just call a nonprofit and say you’re willing to volunteer. you want to help …This is one thing and we think businesses should invest in it.”
Or, businesses can donate $85 a month, which TechForce uses toward tuition and student living allowances.
“We need the scholarships to get them through. You know the number one emergency grant application I get in life happens because a child needs money to stay in school? It’s a car repair shop and an apartment. So this is where the kid wants to work for the industry but he’s trying to survive school and now he has to choose between paying his rent or paying for the new tires to get him to school and to work is coming. That’s crazy.”
According to the TechForce study, there has been a 1,200 drop in employment for collision technicians, or just under 1%, over the past six years.
“While this one-year decline is not significant in itself, it is worrying in that it is the sixth year of continuous decline in the collision sector,” wrote Greg Suttle, the study’s author and TechForce director emeritus for national initiatives. He has been in the automotive repair industry for over 40 years. This corresponds to a decrease from 160,400 in 2016 to 152,500 last year.
Demand for collision technologies this year includes:
- New positions – 10,348
- Spare positions – 15,471
- Vacancies carried over from 2021 to 2022 – 9,420
That adds up to demand of 35,239 new entrants versus 18,496 forecast for 2021.
“In our 2021 report, we dealt for the first time with the issue of the aging workforce in traffic engineering. This was in response to a belief widely held in the industry that transportation technicians are a disproportionately aging workforce, with a higher percentage of individuals retiring than other occupations in the workforce. These beliefs have led to fears that this has exacerbated the problem of the technician shortage. This report found that this is not the case. Nothing will change in the dates for 2022. If you look at the automotive, diesel, collision and aviation sectors, technicians are retiring at a lower rate than the overall US workforce.”
Specifically for accidents, the rate is 3.9% compared to 4.8% for the US workforce as a whole
In terms of supply, auto and collision deals have fallen year on year; for collisions since 2012. Ten years ago, 7,441 collision repair technicians completed the training programs and by 2021 the number had fallen by 40% to 4,487.
This year’s report found that the total number of technicians employed in the automotive and diesel industries has increased. That’s the only good news, though, Suttle wrote.
“By far the most worrying area is the continued decline in the number of students completing post-secondary engineering programs. …With the increasing adoption of EV vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and a host of other advanced technologies, hiring new technicians with little or no training is a risky journey. Therefore, one of the most important strategies that can be implemented is full, ongoing industry engagement with students beginning in middle school.
“…A long-term focus on tackling the underlying causes why young men and women are not interested in the profession is needed. If significant
No effort is made to build the beginning of the funnel, after all, nothing will come out the other end.”
Mike Pressendo, TechForce’s chief marketing and strategy officer, said RDN shops must help change perceptions of the role of the repair technician and the auto repair industry – that it’s high-tech work, not a job you can do hands dirty and the workshops covered in oil.
“Unfortunately collision [repair industry] is the darkest,” Pressendo said. “…The data shows that collision is the least expensive option. I know it’s influenced by the insurance agency because they pay for most repairs, so that’s a mystery as long as the insurance companies keep track of what you earn from these types of repairs, which translates into what you’ll do for yours make people. That’s something TechForce can’t solve, but generally… create a work environment where people enjoy coming to work. Don’t bully young people. Make it a clean place. …They want further training opportunities … professional advancement, a career path.”
Shops can get involved by hosting hands-on events where students can mix paint and work with technicians, which gets high schoolers excited about the industry, he said. Any stores that don’t know how to connect to schools can contact TechForce to do so.
Simply put, TechForce says the industry as a whole should “inspire, support and connect”.
To download study results, complete a three-question request form at techforce.org/supply-demand-report/.
Editor’s Note: There will be more coverage from RDN of the OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit sessions in upcoming articles.
Photo credit: didesign021/iStock
Graphic provided by the TechForce Foundation