Are the technician shortage tides turning?

Are the technician shortage tides turning?

TechForce Foundation data shows that nearly 50,000 new automotive technicians joined the workforce in 2022, for a total of over 78,000 in two years.

In its 2023 Transportation Supply & Demand report, our friends at the TechForce Foundation didn’t waste any time giving us hope that the technician shortage is showing signs of recovery. Right there on the cover of the report are the words “The first uptick across the industry in postsecondary completions in 10 years.” That’s fantastic news.  For the first time in a decade, there has been a marked increase in graduates from technical schools across the automotive, collision, diesel, and even aviation sectors. Specifically, the automotive sector has witnessed nearly 5,000 additional students graduating in 2022 over the previous year – a 17% increase. Now, the question is, is 17% a worthy enough bump to put your technician-chasing days behind you? For you to cartwheel into the shop to pull a rope you rigged overnight to dump 2 tons of confetti in your store colors into your bays like you just won the Super Bowl? Ding dong! The witch is dead!

I’d argue we’re not there yet. Not even close. But, the tech shortage pivoting in the right direction should warrant a more metered celebration. Go ahead and order the “extra cheese” option on your next pie from your favorite mom-and-pop pizza joint. That is well deserved.

The trends show significant progress in just one year, with nearly 50,000 new automotive technicians joining the workforce in 2022 and a total growth of over 78,000 technicians in two years. And, that’s not all. To quote the conclusion of the report:

“The technician workforce in the sectors we measure has grown by 57,000 employees from 2021 to 2022. That equates to a 4.3% increase; outpacing even the growth of the overall US Labor Force at 4.0%. We are beginning to close the gap in the transportation technician shortage. In last year’s report, we listed the number of technicians needed in the next 5 years at nearly one million. This year, the number is down to 795,000!”

That’s an over 20% decrease in just one year. It goes to show that no matter how dire things look (or more importantly, feel), this nightmarish shortage can be felled. It can be beaten!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is still a long way to go. Load up on buttery, good-news mashed potatoes all you want, that canned spinach isn’t going anywhere, and you can’t leave the table until your plate is clean. Those soft, slick, mushy greens are the fact that 795,000 is still an unfathomable number and that 465,000 of those new entrants need to join in the “automotive” category (the others being collision, diesel and aviation).

I truly believe that educational institutions offering two-year programs are pivotal in supplying the industry with new talent, but at the end of the day, these schools are a single – yet very important – cog in the grand technician creation and retention machine, one that is largely out of your control. Your cog is the one that turns by providing a shop culture that values feedback, supports professional development, and offers competitive compensation. If the effort is there across the industry, maybe in a few years the only new hire you’ll be worried about is a part-timer to sweep up all that confetti.

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