The Secret to Solving the Auto Tech Shortage

The Secret to Solving the Auto Tech Shortage | AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching. Close-up image of an auto mechanic using wrench to repair a car engine in auto car garage.

Are you posting job listings for auto techs on Indeed to no avail? Or only getting one or two responses from underqualified applicants hoping to slide under the radar? If so, you’re not alone with such hiring issues.

Auto shops all across the nation have started to feel the hurt as the technician shortage continues to get worse. In just the past two years, the shortage increased by 50,000, resulting in over 125,000 auto tech job openings left unfilled. And many shop owners are losing customers, profits, and sleep as a result.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. However, it will require everyone in the industry to work together to save their shops. 

Ready to find out what needs to happen? Here’s a look at the secret to solving the auto tech shortage.

Why an Auto Technician Shortage Exists

Before solving the problem, you must understand why it exists. The shortage of auto techs started over 15 years ago as stagnation in the industry took hold.

As other industries sweetened the deal with ever-increasing wages and benefits, shop owners kept doing things the same way. As a result, becoming an auto tech became a much less attractive career path.

Other factors contributed to the lack of auto techs entering the field as well, including:

  • Fewer successful vocational programs in public schools nationwide
  • High-tech vehicle systems demand bigger tool and training investments
  • The automotive field viewed as less prestigious than other career paths

Now, shop owners are in dire straits as their workforce continues to age out of the field. Nearly 30% of techs are over 55 years old, and there’s simply no one coming to fill their positions as they retire.

Crunch Time: Solving the Automotive Mechanic Shortage

At AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching, we’re problem solvers. To do that effectively, we partner with many like-minded individuals interested in improving the industry, like The Coalition of Automotive Management Professionals (CAMP).

In a recent CAMP meeting, we were delighted to hear Cecil Bullard present his four steps to solving the auto technician shortage. They’re simple yet brilliant and absolutely doable if auto shop owners work together on this shared mission to save the industry.

That doesn’t mean the process will be painless. The automotive industry as a whole has spent decades undervaluing themselves—and their employees—directly leading to the tech shortage. The process needs to start now, but it’ll likely still take at least five years to see an influx of techs joining the field.

So, to start unwinding that issue, shop owners will need to begin by boosting their labor rate by at least $20. As you do that, remember that the average shop has a labor rate of $125 an hour when it should be $250 an hour or higher. Customers might push back at first, but it’s high time to teach them your worth.

4 Steps to Solving the Shortage of Auto Techs

Solving the auto tech shortage is about making the industry more attractive to the younger generation and making it easy for budding auto techs to funnel into their career path

To do that, auto shop owners need to use their $20+ an hour labor rate boost to follow these four steps.

1. Boost Pay Dramatically

Wage stagnation has directly resulted in the automotive technician shortage. Techs have to invest more than ever in tools and training but don’t have the wages to back it up. So, use $10 of your labor rate increase to increase wages and make it financially appealing to join the industry.

Starting techs should make $25 to $35 an hour or $50,000 to $70,000 per year. And your veteran A techs? Bump them up to at least $45 to $65 an hour or $90,000 to $130,000 annually. If you’re in a higher-cost-of-living area, like on the East or West Coast, increase the rate even more.

2. Bring in the Benefits

Benefits packages offered in the automotive industry pale in comparison to nearly every other sector nationwide. Auto shop owners must keep up with the times by creating full benefits packages that keep them in the competition.

By using $5 of the labor rate bump, it’ll be easy to create packages that offer:

  • Comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Generous paid vacation and sick days each year
  • All national holidays off with full pay for each employee
  • A retirement plan with employer-matching contributions

Don’t forget to work paid mental health days into the mix to give people time to decompress and get their minds in the game as needed to cope with daily stresses.

3. Back a Non-Profit

A non-profit organization can help bridge the gap between auto shops and families, helping present the field as a viable career option for the next generation. But they need funds to do that. Auto shop owners can take the remaining $5 of the labor rate increase and back these non-profits in all they do.

With that move, you can benefit greatly as the non-profits create scholarship programs and chat with families about how the field can help their children build bright futures. The organizations can even set up mentorship programs that partner students with the best local auto shops in each area.

Non-profits can create advertising campaigns akin to the “Got Milk?” ads to bring even more interest in the field. The ads can also focus on attracting marginalized groups, like women who only make up about 9% of the auto repair field.

4. Book School Visits

As the final piece of the puzzle, auto shop owners must get out there and share their love of the industry with the world. For example, you can book college appointments to chat about automotive career opportunities with students, teachers, and admins.

Or you could set up community events at your shop, like workshops and classes, designed to help people learn about the field and get excited about the available career paths. If you play your cards right, it won’t cost more than your time to engage with the community in this way.

Let AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching Be Of Help

As your automotive business coach, it’s important to point out that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. You have to change things up to get great results—and solving the auto tech shortage is no exception. 

So, commit to leading the changes in the automotive industry and watch in awe as your efforts start to bring more techs your way.

If you’d like help making the changes, Chris Cotton at AutoFix Auto Shop Coaching is always here to help. To get started, fill out our form, and we’ll get back to you with more information about auto repair shop coaching.

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