Previously we’ve discussed why there is currently an auto technician shortage and why so many businesses struggle to find good techs. We’ve talked about how tools and benefits factor in. This time we’ll cover how technology has radically changed the work techs do and how that affects the number of people pursuing this line of work.
Before computers revolutionized the auto industry, a mechanic had to be mechanical – good with machines, good with his hands. Cars were less complex and could be fixed by someone with experience, intuition, and a sound sense of how machines work. In the past 50 years the profession has changed so much that the name of this job has also changed. Auto mechanics are now called auto techs because fixing cars now takes more technical skill than mechanical. Computer systems control all vehicle systems now. This means that more education is required and auto techs must demonstrate strong computer skills as well as math and reading aptitude.
However, technology hasn’t just changed once, it’s constantly evolving and affecting every facet of modern life. Thirty years ago a car had a radio and maybe a tape deck. Now many of them have entertainment systems featuring iPhone docks or back-seat televisions. These require electronic and computer-based skills to fix. The emergence of hybrid and electric cars means that techs must get additional training in electrical systems and continuously add to their understanding of how these systems are engineered, getting certified and recertified to continue doing the same job. Experience with fixing cars only goes so far in today’s repair environment.
Diagnosing what is wrong with a vehicle is also challenging. Diagnostic tools available do not do all the work. A technician has to be sharp to determine what is causing the problem even with up-to-date diagnostic tools. What’s more, the pace of change is not slowing down at all. Self-driving cars are only a few years away, and today’s vehicles already have features like collision assist and parking assist. Driving experiences in the future will also be shaped by cloud computing. A single car will be able to change its settings to accommodate different drivers identified by their key fobs.
Sound complicated? It’s a brave new world for all of us, but most people don’t have to learn how to fix an enormous spectrum of vehicles all built differently to take advantage of shifting energy options or to provide a more tailored and luxurious driving experience. It’s not enough to get training or education once. Today’s techs have to be comfortable with learning and change, and they have to be willing to spend more time in the classroom in order to keep doing their jobs. That’s in addition to a shifting reimbursement landscape in an already complex economy.
Anyone pursuing this line of work today will have to factor in how comfortable he or she is with both computers and change to decide whether auto repair is the career for him. This is another piece of the technician shortage puzzle.