There’s a nationwide long-term business health problem that has been growing for decades. There are fewer and fewer qualified technicians coming into any trades industry, including automotive. It has always been hard to find and keep qualified people; it’s only become harder and harder in recent years.
I have observed that our middle and high school counselors have systemically steered young people away from vocational training. There is an assumption that the kids are going to go to college. This is great for some and not so great for others. Not every young person is going to excel in a college environment. To make matters worse, they will leave a four-year college with a degree in say, computer technology with a debt of (conservatively) $30,000-$50,000 and be in a situation where they are battling for a $35,000 a year position.
Trouble is, without trained people to be electricians, plumbers, carpenters and auto technicians, we’re all going to be in a world of hurt. This industry isn’t a flashy place to work. It’s also not particularly easy to do and requires a substantial investment in tools and training to be accomplished. At Motor Works, we’ve been utilizing an in-house apprenticeship program for years and it has continually evolved to serve our in-house needs, but the underlying problem nationwide doesn’t seem to be improving as quickly as it should. I worry that the long-term result will be a more “throw-away” philosophy of vehicle manufacture and ownership, leading to higher costs to repair the vehicles. Neither of these two conditions seems particularly appealing.
I am fortunate to work with some of the smartest minds in the country as part of my networking. Just breaking ground within the last year is the American Skilled Labor Association. I personally know Mike Davidson, the President of this organization and support their commitment to finding ways to help younger people apprentice in technical fields, not just automotive. We believe the answer is to provide educational opportunities for younger students, even down to middle-school age. They need to be exposed to these intricate and remarkable machines; these computers on wheels, and to have a chance to discover an innate excitement for learning about and working with them. Many young people have never held a wrench, turned a screw, and so on. Many have only pushed buttons on their gaming consoles. There is something to be said for learning to be handy and being self-sufficient in the world of machines, even simple ones.
While there will always be a need for the mechanic, and now technician, it is amazing to think what the auto service industry will be like in 10-20 more years and what kind of work we will actually be doing on the cars.
Whether I am there to see it or not, it is my hope that all of the stakeholders, meaning the clients, vendors, and staff never lose the core philosophies that I have instilled into the culture of Motor Works, Inc.
– Greg Skolnik