When I interview shop owners or managers all over North America for various articles, they usually end up asking me the same question.
“I need a new technician; do you know anybody good?”
After an awkward pause they often say, “Someone with a pulse?”
From New York City to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, the collision repair industry has too many openings and too few people to fill them. It’s all about supply and demand, and tech schools are enrolling more and more students, but it’s still a matter of “too little, too late.”
A recent study conducted by TechForce Foundation quantifies the growing seriousness of the body technician supply shortage. A non-profit organization whose goal is to get more young people interested in careers in auto repair, TechForce has a steep hill to climb as trade schools close or reduce class sizes.
The growing gap between postsecondary graduate numbers and job openings in mechanical and collision repair is hitting the panic stage, according to the TechForce Foundation’s Transportation Technician Supply Report.
Based on the comprehensive analysis performed by the National Center for Education Statistics with 2011-2016 data, TechForce discovered that the postsecondary supply of new body technicians entering the field has not kept up with the expanding demand.
The schools are trying to fill the void, but it is growing at a rapid rate. This shortage has been getting worse for the past 15 years, but hit its all-time low in 2013, as the gap between the supply and the demand has continued to grow every year.
New technicians breaking into the industry are filling the growth in new positions, as well as replacing those who retire or exit the profession primarily through retirement. They are distinguished from seasoned body technicians who move between employers but don’t add to the overall trained workforce. It's like a bad drought that isn't being helped after some heavy rainfall because the need is increasing and many technicians are reaching the retirement stage.
The TechForce report reveals that auto tech postsecondary graduates have been declining in a big way since 2013.