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Automotive technical schools just saw the largest graduation drop in a decade

by | Nov 17, 2022

The number of students who earned postsecondary degrees as auto technicians dropped by nearly 12 percent last year, the largest single-year decline since auto tech graduations began declining in 2012, according to a new report from the TechForce Foundation.

This is the fifth year the non-profit organization released its Technician Supply & Demand report, and there’s very little to be excited about if you’re a shop owner looking to hire more skilled techs. The most recent one-year drop caps a decade of declines in new auto tech degrees, totaling a 34 percent reduction from about 41,000 a year in 2012 to less than 29,000 in 2021.

Meanwhile, more than 22,000 new technician positions were expected to be created this year due to industry growth. Add to that nearly 60,000 positions that were left unfilled from previous years, and you start to get a sense why it’s hard to fill service tech jobs these days.

Nevertheless, total automotive techs employed actually increased in 2021 to 733,200, although that can also be seen as mixed news.

“What that means is that the new entrant technicians to the workforce have less training,” the report says. “This, at a time when there is strong agreement within the industry that we need better-trained new entrant technicians for the future facing the industry; a future that is arguably already here. With the increased adoption of EVs, autonomous vehicles and a myriad of other advanced technologies, hiring new entrant technicians with little or no training as the norm is a risky path to go down.”

One of the few slightly positive notes is the report debunks the widely held belief that transportation technicians – including auto, diesel, collision, aviation and avionics techs – are older than the workforce average and therefore retiring at a faster rate, further exacerbating these issues. Using federal employment data, they show that retirement rates in this industry are actually lower than the rest of the U.S. labor force. Seems professional wrenches aren’t graying as much as people think.

You can find much more information by signing up to download the full report on the TechForce website.

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