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Why There Is a Shortage of Skilled Automotive Technicians - Part 2

By Jim Taddei - September 11th 2012

While most shops have always had a certain amount of difficulty finding and keeping good quality technicians, the problem seems to be getting worse. It looks like this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Good quality shops that are committed to providing their technicians with what is needed to repair today’s complex cars and light trucks (tools, training, repair information) along with fair compensation have been able to continue attracting the best and brightest technicians.

RepairPal Top Shops are excellent examples of this. These shops tend to have a core group of very experienced technicians who have been working together for many years. Mixed in with this core group are a smaller number of younger technicians (most often these are fairly recent trade school graduates) who are willing and able to learn from the more experienced group. It takes a commitment from both the shop owners and technicians to make this work. At this critical stage in the development of our next generation of automotive technicians, we need more shops committed to this never ending training process.

As part of our RepairPal Top Shop assessment process, I have the opportunity to get to know these shops and their employees. I am continually impressed with the quality I find. I have often thought to myself if I had been working in a shop of this caliber, perhaps I would still be working in the trade. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my work at RepairPal, I most certainly do! It’s just that some shops are so much better at taking care of their employees, I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like if things had turned out differently for me and others like myself who have recently left the trade.

It is not cheap for a shop to take care of their employees. Tools, training, certifications, and fair compensation certainly add up. Shops that provide all of these things will generally have to charge more for their repairs than those that do not. So, how will you know if a repair shop has the qualifications to back up the prices they charge? That is where RepairPal comes in. We have done the homework for you. You can rest assured that all RepairPal Certified shops have proven to the AutoPro team at RepairPal that they have what it takes to get your vehicle repaired.

For more information about the RepairPal Top Shop program, please click here »

7 User Comments

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Very interesting article, I do agree that the big problem of qualified labor is in big part the poor compensation that this trade has compared with the other trades even a Plomber has beter compensation in many cases with out the big expenses an Auto tech has to make in tools and equipment . there is another big problem we have in this industry, and that is the proliferation of non qualified shops that are undemining the level of respect we need and deserve, I think it is time for Profesional Shops to be certified, aditional to the certifications the technicians have to have from ASE.
As a former recruiter, Auto Techs are horrible at promoting themselves and they job hop frequently. Even the incredibly skilled ones. Auto Techs can be extremely unprofessional when it comes to the hiring process and leaving a shop. These are guys who know cars, not business. They burn bridges, and can be incredibly difficult to manage at times. That is why when you go to a shop that has a incredibly experienced Technican, and he has been at that location for a long time, to me it shows all around professionalism. A shop that takes care of their technicans will take excellent care of your vehichle.
Being a shop owner over the last 11 years and being in the industry as an auto tech for the last 25 years, I have seen my share of auto techs.. There are very few really good ones. They sound good up front and look great on their resumé , if they have one, but after a few weeks they will show you who they really are.. Most fall way short when you compare their ability and actions to how good they think they are up front. A really good tech needs three basic things. 1. Have plenty of good quality tools, including speciality tools. 2. Has to know what he is doing and be able to learn and willing to learn. 3. Has to be dedicated to his job, which means showing up every day and being on time. My experience I can find a tech who has plenty of tools, knows what to do but cant get to work because he stays out drunk every other night. Or I have a tech who has tools, shows up to work and has NO idea what to do. Or I have a mechanic who can fix anything and will get to work but his great uncle has his tools in another state or his ex wife ended up with his tools because of a divorce... bla bla bla... If I can find a tech who has all three--- Plenty of tools, knows what to do, and is committed to his career then I would have a great tech. Here is the kicker... If this tech can manage his money/time-- then I will show you a soon to be shop owner.
I am 40 and a Master Tech, L1 level with over 200 factory and aftermarket certifications. I will tell you shop owners something right now, and you wont want to hear it. Quit being cheap slave drivers. Flat rate is a joke. Most of you pay .5 for a LOF and .7 for alignments. Look at the labor times. These are billed in your favor. Offer good benefits. Fix your rickety equipment that is worn out and unsafe. In my 25 years, I have seen EVERY shop have malfunctioning or antiquated equipment. I will not work weekends, I will not work late period. I will not work diagnostics on a flat rate level when there is no labot time guide for tracing a shorted CAN or class 2 data network wire that a trunk hinge rubbed through causing the car to not start. I am sick of seeing techs get paid 20$ per hour while the shop owner collected 100$ per hour off my talent, skill and tools. Overhead? Sure I understand overhead, but be honest, most independent shops have a fair enough overhead that there is room to pay a top technician. You really want to know whats up? Kids are not like we were in the 80s and 90s that were driven to work, and desired to learn. Teachers are not teaching the kids correctly for this field for the most part, and kids don't want physical labor. The upper tier techs are sick of being treated like crap. We are opening are own shops in our own Garages. It is that simple. They would rather make 60$ per hour and deal with the stress of customers, than make 20$ flat rate and deal with the stress of customers, junk equipment and a owner that thinks he knows it all, but has not touched a wrench in over 30 years or if even at all. Wake up..Yoh better take care of what's left now because the average shop owner future is bleak and short lived. The next 10 years in this racket is going 5o be the way of the technician. There is the plain truth.
I agree with the tech above. I am 48, a l1 tech, and can not understand why we do not get 50% or even 40% of the labor rate! When I started in this business, I got paid HALF the labor rate, now I understand the cost of owning a repair business has gone up, but so has the labor rate, but NOT THE TECH'S PAY. The labor rate is around $100 an hour, but we are now getting the same pay per hour or less, than 15 years ago. There is NO retirement, no gold watch, nothing but arthritis, and a broken body after 20-40 years of wrenching. WHY would any young talented person even conceive of entering this field? PAY US FAIR AGAIN, and we can afford to stay in this business.
To my partners in this crime, master and L1 = bla bla bla,after 37 years i went on own making less but i love my job again, you know the love hate relationship you need to do this trade, im 57 and more beat up than a linebacker, and for the poster that dont see the need to pay me for diagnostic time, we should go by way of the plumber or electrician and charge by the hour to dig for that leak, or line checks for shorts ''that's all by the hour'' we need our own union owned and operated by us.
I enjoyed this article not only because of it's concise presentation (I also have a degree in English and a minor in Technical Writing), but because of the comments. At 34 years old I have been doing this for 12 years now. I have worked in independent shops as well as dealerships. It may not put money in the my pocket, and it may not repair the automotive industry as a whole... but these comments validate my feelings towards this trade. I have spent thousands in tools (as we all have) and have spent countless hours of my own time trying to stay ahead of the curve, and become the laptop carrying technician the educators in this field advise you to be. You are not rewarded for being a good technician, you are punished. You will receive the most complex, problematic vehicles and be expected to repair them under the flat rate illusion. "No I'm sorry, you can not claim straight time on warranty diagnostics." That's simply not acceptable. I take great pride in turning away young technicians who I work with, and have done so successfully more than once. It won't take the average apprentice more than a year to realize all the bitterness of an experienced technician is both justified and warranted. Demands to skip lunch, or scheduled breaks because the 'waiter' appointments are pressing. Advisors so uneducated on the product we service that the repair orders are reminiscent of shooting in the dark. Equipment not being serviced, or updated. The story remains consistent regardless of where you go. Perhaps a full sweep and massive lack of interest in the trade altogether from the younger generation is exactly what's needed for the powers that be, to acknowledge the situation, and make a change.