Automotive Service & Collision Repair Jobs | Skilled Worker Shortage

According to a recent article in the Star Tribune, Minnesotans have much to be proud of, including the third-highest labor-force participation rate in the country and an unemployment rate below the national average for 10 years running.

Even so, a shortage of skilled workers is impeding Minnesota’s economic growth. By 2024, projections show a gap of 400,000 workers needed to fill middle-skill jobs — those requiring education beyond high school but not a four-year degree.

Careers in the auto service and collision repair industry certainly fall within this category. Across the country there are more drivers on the road, and many of them are hanging on to their vehicles longer than ever. That means workers in the auto industry are in demand more than ever.

Auto service and collision repair technicians, as well as parts specialists, service advisors and estimators are all in high demand. These jobs are readily available to those who complete a one or two-year post secondary auto program. And students can easily find a job while attending school, honing their skills and ready to hit the ground running upon graduation – and with much less debt than a four-year college graduate.

Every year, high school students say the same thing: They are enrolling in college — particularly four year institutions — to find a job. Yet only 27% of four-year degree holders are working in a job directly related to their college major, with many underemployed. Students are getting left behind financially while businesses aren’t finding the supply of trained workers they need. Aanand Radia, managing director of University Ventures, summarized this concisely, “Clearly, the way higher education is set up today and how it’s traditionally been set up is not going to answer the needs of what employers want and to shrink the skills gap.”

As economic growth is expected to continue in 2019, so too is a labor shortage in blue-collar and services occupations, a recent study from The Conference Board found. Baby boomers are aging out of the workforce at the same time the pool of available labor has become more educated, and thus less interested in blue-collar jobs. The tight labor market can be a boon for blue-collar workers: They are more likely to find good paying auto careers and experience rapid wage growth.

While the median salary for auto service technicians and mechanics was around $40,000 a year in 2017, those with experience and more advanced certifications can potentially earn six-figure salaries during their career. The Conference Board study points out that continued tightness in the labor market, while frustrating for employers, can actually be a boon for workers. “The sky is the limit for auto program graduates,” said Dan Sjolseth, chair of Minnesota Careers in Auto Repair & Service (MNCARS). “Industry employers are eager to fill positions and are offering lucrative compensation packages.”

For now, though, the auto service and collision repair industry’s immediate need is for more technicians. Some 46,000 automotive service technicians and mechanics will be needed to fill roles through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To get them, industry employers and educators are just trying to get the word out to people who like cars and technology.

Written by Judell Anderson