There is a shortage of techs in the auto repair industry. This is undeniable. America needs good skilled workers to repair cars, and there aren’t enough of them. Previously we’ve discussed many reasons for why there is a shortage. This includes pay, benefits, tool expectations, and a host of other factors including training. One aspect of training that we haven’t talked about is that often it’s not enough. Even when techs complete their technical training, sometimes they still fail on the job. Why is this?
Generational conflict is something that the media likes to play up, but there are some real differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers and other generations. Much of that is based on how they were raised. Millennials grew up in a position of relative privilege compared to Boomers. Many of them didn’t have jobs as children. They didn’t have paper routes or have to take care of younger siblings or do farm chores. They may have had part-time jobs, but they didn’t grow up with the same “work or starve” work ethic that parents who had gone through the Great Depression and World War II instilled in their kids.
Baby Boomers also moved out of their parents’ houses and started families earlier, often in their teens or early twenties, so they had a huge incentive to find work and work hard at their jobs. They didn’t want their families to go hungry. Many of them had learned very practical skills in their younger years that they applied to fixing cars. Car repair was also much more straightforward and mechanical before the computer revolution.
In comparison, by the time Millennials left high school, few of them had learned practical skills like cooking, home repair, basic carpentry, or mechanical skills. The jobs they’ve had are more likely to have been customer service jobs instead of manual labor. At age 20, many of today’s workers lack the skills that older generations had before they even entered high school, let alone the workforce.
Another reason technical training fails is because of shortened attention spans. Due to the influence of television and now ever-present technology, younger people need more stimulation for something to hold their interest. Everyone in America with access to TV and smartphones has been trained, in a sense, to expect greater stimulation and avoid books or topics or jobs that require you to really pay attention, but Millennials never knew a life before microwave ovens and TV remotes. They’ve spent years playing video games, surfing the web, and watching streaming, on-demand TV. To do a job that requires real problem solving, being able to concentrate on an issue for a significant amount of time is a real asset. If you can’t focus and stay focused, you can’t fix cars.
Finally, education over the years has been made deliberately less challenging, from kindergarten to higher education. Students now enter college unable to do simple algebra. They have to take remedial courses in English and math just to begin their core coursework. And they still can’t write well or do the kind of basic math that was drilled into earlier generations. Schools once taught logic courses, classic literature, problem solving, and life skills like baking, sewing, and auto shop. Many of these have been abandoned as old-fashioned or not engaging enough for students.
Also, so much information is available at the tip of our fingers now. We can search a few keywords on Google and get the answers to our questions in seconds or minutes. Younger people haven’t been trained to dig to find answers and keep digging even when it takes time and is difficult. Writing a research paper in 1970 or 1990 was a lot harder and more time consuming than it is now because nothing was computerized and you had to use resources that required concentration and patience in order to get the information you needed.
Auto techs can finish high school and then enroll in and complete a trade school program, but the instruction they receive there may not be enough to make up for the lack of solid learning and life experience that being a successful auto repair tech requires. This is something that few people in the auto repair industry want to talk about, but it’s a huge factor in why technical training is often not enough to produce techs who are capable of solving problems, staying on task, and showing up to work every day.