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TechForce: Amount of students graduating from tech schools is increasing

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The amount of students graduating from technical schools has increased for the first time in a decade, according to a new report.

TechForce Foundation’s recently-released Technician Supply & Demand report found that student completions in all segments, including collision repair, are up.

“This is wonderful news,” said Jennifer Maher, TechForce Foundation’s CEO.

“[We and our] donors have worked tirelessly to dispel the outdated stigmas; to share the upside and advantages that a technician career offers; to show respect for techs and their vital role in keeping America moving; and helping young people who love problem-solving, technology, and working with their hands to find an education and career that fits. When we see an uptick in program completions, we have faith that the hard work is paying off.”

According to the report, collision technician completions rose more than 5% last year with an increase of 238 graduates.

Although last year’s 4,725 completions were higher than 2021’s 4,487 graduates, it was 45% still lower than 2013’s 7,469 figure.

The report also found that the amount of overall auto collision technicians was up .5% in 2022 with an increase of 800 collision repair technicians. The rise followed a six-year-long downward slide.

“While this is not a significant increase, it is certainly encouraging,” the report said. “…The two most important measurements we have available to us are the total number of technicians employed and the number of postsecondary completions in transportation technical programs,” it said. “These are the measurements that represent where we, as an industry, can make our greatest impact through our combined efforts in actively championing technical careers.

“While technician demand is certainly an important metric, we have no control over it. …Therefore, it is most encouraging to see the current trends that are developing, as shown in this year’s report.”

TechForce added that its work is not over and that it must continue working to meet the need for 110,000 collision technicians through 2027 by:

    • Engaging with students, beginning in middle school, as well as parents at school stakeholders to increase awareness of technical career paths;
    • Building relationships with local school instructors and administrators;
    • Providing funding for technical training scholarships;
    • Pushing enrollment in post-secondary training programs;
    • Utilizing internships, mentorships, and apprenticeships; and
    • Supporting nonprofit organizations that are working to address the tech shortage.

TechForce said this year’s report was significant because it found that the transportation technician workforce increased 4.3% year-over-year in 2022, outpacing U.S. Labor Force growth for the first time.

While noting that the figures are good news, TechForce noted that 795,000 new automotive, diesel, collision repair, aviation, and avionics technicians are still needed to meet demand through 2027. That figure is down from the 1 million new hires deemed necessary to fill the gap in last year’s TechForce report.

“The decrease in open positions is certainly encouraging, as well as the increase in both technicians employed and postsecondary technical program graduates,” said Greg Settle, report author and TechForce’s director emeritus of national initiatives. “Hopefully, the past year’s trend of increased graduates continues, as we still have many more open positions than graduates ready to join the workforce. Collision

“Repair has the biggest challenge ahead with 6.7 jobs available for every graduate, followed by 3.1 for Diesel, 2.6 for Automotive and 1.2 in Aviation.”

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.

Earlier this year, it launched a new technical education campaign called “Grab the Wheel” to attract entry-level automotive, collision, and diesel repair technicians into the industries over the next five years to meet the looming workforce demand.

“We need to do everything we can to inspire and support those who want to pursue the technician career path,” Maher said. “Too often, students either don’t start or have to drop out of their technical education because of financial barriers.

“TechForce will award $2.3 million in scholarships and grants this year alone, but that’s still only serving 1 in every 3 applicants. We simply need more donations to help these students get where they’re trying to go, which is employment in an industry that desperately needs them.”

In July, I-CAR shared its plans for helping recruit more talent into the collision repair industry during a Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meeting.

Dara Goroff, I-CAR’s vice president of planning and industry talent programming, said strategies aimed at bridging the industry’s talent gap have come a long way in the past year, with the newly launched Collision Careers marketing campaign poised to further bolster interest.

“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 at the time.


Featured image courtesy of Nalinee Supapornpasupad/iStock

Graphics courtesy of the TechForce Foundation

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