Auto Technician Training Programs On The Rise

By Staff
May 4, 2009

As more people opt to fix rather than replace their cars, demand for automobile technicians and mechanics is growing. As a result, many automotive training programs are experiencing a surge in enrollment.

The Seattle Times reports that students in automotive training programs are filling the Seattle area's community colleges and vocational schools beyond capacity. Nolan Koreski, an automotive instructor who teaches at Lake Washington Technical College, noted that he expected continued increased enrollment as unemployment benefits and severance packages run out.

"I've been a teacher long enough that I've been through a few up and down cycles," he remarked. "When this happens people want to get into something they perceive as more steady."

The increased demand for auto technicians comes as cash-strapped consumers avoid purchasing big-ticket items such as cars, and instead invest in maintaining their vehicles. Moreover, the increasing complexity of automotive systems requires additional training and expertise.

"Parents used to say, 'Johnny can't do anything else-he should be a mechanic," said Don Schultz, program director of Shoreline Community College's Professional Automotive Training Center. "Those days are over. These students wear surgical gloves when they work on cars. They're not getting their hands dirty."

Shoreline's automotive program is enrolled to capacity, requiring the school to turn away applicants. But Schultz noted that a new $4.2 million expansion will allow them to accept 30 percent more than before.

KPCC in Southern California reports that according to Eric Gillanders of Ford, 50 percent of current automobile technicians will retire within the next 10 years, providing tremendous job opportunities for knowledgeable mechanics.

"Today, cars are so technical that the kids have to be trained at an earlier age," explained George Root, who teaches a two-year automotive course at the Baldy View Regional Occupation Program. "They have to be smarter than we ever were working back in the '60s and '70s. Because of that, they are paid better."

The report notes that parts and service departments expect to earn 3 percent more this year than last, while 75 percent of independent mechanics also expect more work.

In a nod to the trend, The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina reports that area car repair shops are thriving. The Meineke Car Center in Concord said it was doing 100 oil changes a week-a 30 percent increase from a few months ago-while business grew 20 percent overall.

People searching for recession-proof careers have noticed. "I know that regardless of how the economy is going, everybody is going to need a car," noted Nigel Diaz, a high school student interested in pursuing an auto tech career, who was quoted by KPCC. "And cars break, so I'll be there to fix them."

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