In the driver's seat

Jobs for auto technicians revving up

Posted: Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jobs for auto mechanics - or auto technicians, as they are commonly referred to today - are in abundance, according to a number of experts in the field. And with technology rapidly changing, the need for skilled workers is continuously growing.

"There is a definite shortage of expert auto technicians out there," says Scott Samuel, operations manager for Moran Industries, an auto repair center in Midlothian, Ill. "This creates a high demand in a high-growth industry."

Most of the hiring of auto technicians is done by automotive repair centers, says Samuel. These repair centers are usually high-tech and sophisticated, and the massive growth in this sector accounts for $247.8 billion in annual sales.

Technical advancements

"In the past, most auto mechanics were required to only have basic automotive knowledge and work with a toolbox full of wrenches," says Samuel. "With automobiles today being much more complex than even a few years ago, auto technicians are required to have in-depth knowledge about electronics and computers."

Today's cars can have more than 20 different intricate computer systems inside, so skilled knowledge is essential to being successful in the profession. Acquiring these skills can happen in a number of ways. Samuel says the best way for younger aspiring auto technicians is to take auto classes in high school and to be introduced to the career field then. The Auto Youth Education System (AYES) is a program geared toward teens that sends them to a local dealership to do an apprenticeship.

Training pays

"The best students get sent by their dealerships for degree and certification programs to community college after high school," says Bob Brueggeman, who heads the automotive technology degree and certification programs at the Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va.

From there, or if you are just beginning, you should attend a two- or four-year college and obtain a degree in auto repair. Many times, the college can help you obtain a job with an automotive repair center.

"With an associate's degree, they have more opportunities for a management future, and dealerships seem to have more ownership in them," says Brueggeman. "The auto techs with manufacturer programs and a degree under their belts, they'll be the ones running things."

Factory direct

Brueggeman says many aspiring auto mechanics now get manufacturer or factory training.

"Manufacturer-sponsored training, where students get factor credits for training at colleges, usually can advance a career more quickly," he says. "Daimler-Chrysler has five levels of training."

- Rob Kallick

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