Words by Greg Settle, Director of National Initiatives, TechForce Foundation
A career as a technician, whether automotive, diesel or collision, has seldom been seen as an aspirational one through the years. I had every intention of pursuing a white-collar career and trudging through college to get a 4-year degree or higher. I suddenly found myself as a senior in high school with no real passion for any career. One day a representative from a technical trade school came to talk about the automotive and diesel programs they offered. I found myself immediately intrigued, and went home that night and told my parents about it.
Here is where my story differs from many: my parents listened. You see, even as a young child, I had always enjoyed working with my hands; repairing, building and creating. I worked on cars for fun with my friends, but I never imagined there was a real career there, and therefore had never considered it. My parents were strongly supportive of the idea of a transportation technician career for me, and they encouraged me to pursue it because they could see it spoke to my innate abilities and passion. That started a journey that led me through 20 years in Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
Unfortunately, many kids today do not get that encouragement and support from their parents. Here are some facts to share with your parents on why a career as a transportation technician may well be the right career choice for you.
COST OF EDUCATION
There are good reasons for the resurgence of interest in career and technical education: the increasing cost of a traditional college degree. The Wall Street Journal reported students graduate a 4-year college with $30,000 in debt, on average, with more students racking up $50,000 in debt, according to a 2018 Brookings Institution report.
Virtually every skilled trade today is facing labor shortages of epidemic proportions. A report from TechForce Foundation on Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed that new entrant demand for auto technicians is 75,900 technicians between 2016 and 2026. Also, only 35% of the job openings between 2010 and 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree, according to Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce analysis. These statistics make a strong case for the demand as well as the value of skilled trades and other vocational training programs.
Earnings for skilled trades can and do outpace earnings for those with college degrees. Each year, ASE’s Automotive Training Managers Council conducts a survey of technicians across the automotive, collision and trucking industries. In the 2019 survey, 29% of technicians reported earning $60,000 to $80,000 annually, while another 21% earned in excess of $80,000. Those numbers show that earnings as a transportation technician can be very respectable indeed.
PASSION = PROGRESS
The importance of working at a job you love is far from a new concept. In fact, it was Confucius that said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, that was at the very core of my decision to pick the career that I did.
I loved the intrinsic satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from taking mechanical things apart, putting them back together, and in the process, gaining an understanding of how they worked. If you share those same feelings, do not underestimate the fulfillment they may bring to your work day in and day out. It can literally be life-changing.
Article sponsored by TechForce Foundation.