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TechForce looks to bring on 1 million techs over next 5 years

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Collision Repair | Education
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TechForce Foundation’s new technical education campaign, “Grab the Wheel,” launches this Labor Day to usher 1 million new entry-level automotive, collision, and diesel repair technicians into the industries over the next five years to meet the looming workforce demand.

A 2022 Techforce Foundation study found that 232,000 techs were needed in 2021 across automotive, diesel, and collision but schools were graduating only 42,000. In collision alone, the demand was 35,000 techs while only 4,500 graduated.

“Too many students are being forced down the four-year university path, which may not be the best fit for them,” said Jennifer Maher, TechForce Foundation CEO. “For those who love problem-solving, working with their hands, and the rising technology enveloping the transportation (aka mobility) sector today, a technical education and skilled technician career can be wonderfully rewarding.

“Labor Day is a stark reminder of the essential role technicians play. If your car started today, thank a tech. If your airplane arrived safely, thank a tech. These are the individuals who ensure continuity in our everyday lives. By rallying together, we can ensure a future where technology and transport remain resilient.”

TechForce Foundation is a nonprofit organization that conducts research on the automotive, collision, and diesel repair industries and links students with employers through education, apprenticeship, and job opportunities. Its efforts include grant and/or scholarship-funded tuition and grant and scholarship money for schools as well as collaborations with businesses, schools, associations, and nonprofits on workforce development solutions.

During April’s Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting, Maher brought a young body shop technician, Joseph “Raven” Lewis, on stage who said he wished his school had shared more with him and his parents about the opportunities the industry has to offer, including scholarships.

Lewis added that he didn’t go through a post-secondary technical education program because he didn’t think he could afford it and he wasn’t sure if it would help him get a job. So, he made the decision to get a job in the industry right after graduation.

His dream is to continue gaining certifications and moving up in the industry as much as he can throughout his career.

TechForce’s new campaign is aimed at inspiring the next generation of technicians to “keep America rolling,” zeroing in on students ages 13-24 who are still considering what they want their careers to be.

“It’s about helping them connect their unique strengths and passions to meaningful work that makes them happy and fulfilled,” Maher said. “GenZ’s motto is ‘You Be You’ and we agree. If you don’t want to sit at a desk the rest of your life [or] sign up for four more years of academia [and] just love engines and making things work, you can go further, faster with a tech career.”

TechForce asks for help making sure its campaign reaches the right audience by using social media channels to like, comment, or share “Grab the Wheel” content.

“They’re looking for options, freedom, and a chance to design their lives the way they’re wired to work,” said Angie Babin, TechForce Foundation Board of Directors chair. “These young individuals are at a pivotal stage, eager to identify a path that merges their personal inclinations with prosperous futures. That’s why we’re encouraging them to “Grab the Wheel,” explore their options, and consider the tech profession.”

TechForce has noted that technicians across all transportation sectors are in high demand but it’s also evident that positions in all skilled trades have alarming vacancy amounts. 

For example, the ASE Education Foundation and Goodguys Rod and Custom Association, along with other partners in the industry, formed a new program in Oregon and California earlier this year to help bring attention to the career paths that are available in the automotive industry and skilled trades across the board.

The program focuses on automotive design and engineering, manufacturing, mechanical, fabrication, paint, marketing, media, and sales discipline. The ASE Education Foundation and Goodguys work with high schools and host informational seminars to identify and recruit students interested in careers in the transportation industry.

Also, a two-year apprenticeship model is provided through the Collision Engineering Program (CEP), a national workforce development program founded by Enterprise Holdings and Ranken Technical College. Seven colleges participate in CEP.

CEP students are able to earn an income while completing their training in traditional classroom settings and by working at modern collision repair shops. Employers can participate in the program through sponsorship.

A third campaign, through I-CAR, announced earlier this summer called Collision Careers aims to bridge the industry’s talent gap.

“Our industry is most sustainable, not just when we have a host of fantastic technicians that work with us every day at our repair centers, but when we have a really eager population across the United States and in other countries who want to join the collision repair industry,” Goroff said.

Objectives include:

    • Providing information specifically targeted to job seekers and students that illustrate the benefits and growth opportunities within the industry;
    • Sharing information on where to find support resources, such as scholarship opportunities, education, and advice;
    • Distributing print and digital brochures for school advisors or guidance counselors so they can guide students to appropriate educational sources for collision repair; and
    • Shared advertising that all industry segments can use to amplify the message to the future technician audiences they are closest to.

I-CAR is also working with the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and Ducker Carlisle on compiling results from a recently closed survey designed to better understand what collision repair technicians think about working in the industry; specifically, job satisfaction, earning capacity, and other aspects that either encourage or diminish retention.


Featured image: Contra Costa College (CCC) Collision Engineering Program (CEP) student Cinthia Pool works during an I-CAR welding course. (Credit: Contra Costa College)

TechForce Foundation CEO Jennifer Maher interviews Dorn’s Body & Paint technician Joseph “Raven” Lewis during CIC’s April 13, 2023 meeting. (Lurah Lowery/Repairer Driven News)

TechForce Foundation’s “Grab the Wheel” campaign logo. (Provided by TechForce)

More information

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