A major obstacle to solving the technician shortage is what Mike Coley calls a “leaky pipeline” between schools and industry.
âYou start with 100 graduates. Nineteen are leaving to do something else. Eighty-one entered the industry. But then 23 of them leave within two years, and we have 58 left, âColey, president of the ASE Education Foundation, said at anâ ASE Virtual Instructor Training Conference âthis month. âThese numbers are significant. We train 100 students, but after two years we only have 58 in the industry. We need to improve these numbers in order to keep more in the industry. “
Coley reported on the results of a survey this year of over 3,000 current and former auto and body repair students. Almost half (44%) said they felt their current training program prepared them ‘extremely well’ for the job, and an equal number (46%) said they felt at least ‘fairly’ Â»Prepared.
Among current students, many of the survey results were generally positive. About 75 percent said they “probably” or “definitely” intended to pursue a career in the industry.
The 4 in 4 people who did not plan to work in the industry listed a variety of career choices: engineering (16%), other technical occupations, such as welding or wind power (14%), business management. business (11%), military (7%), law enforcement (6%), health sciences (5%), construction (4%) or aviation (4%).
âThere are some pretty ambitious areas out there,â Coley said. âBut honestly, I would love to see more of them say, ‘I really feel like I have an opportunity in the automotive business. “”
It is part of the âleaky pipelineâ.
Among graduates of educational programs working in the industry, many of the numbers were also good. Over 90 percent said they were “fairly” or “extremely” well prepared by their training to work in the industry. More than half (55%) said they were very satisfied with their decision to enter the industry, and 30% were at least âsomewhatâ satisfied with the decision.
The real evidence of the “leaky pipeline” lies in the 41 percent of auto training program graduates who, within two years of graduation, were not working in the industry, Coley said. Some had pursued these âambitious fieldsâ such as engineering (1%), business management (2%), law enforcement (2%), construction (9%) or other technical professions. (10%).
But even more of them were unemployed (11%) or worked in delivery (9%), as laborers (11%) or in retail trade or restaurants (11%).
About 1 in 5 people said they saw better opportunities outside of the industry, but the majority gave other reasons why they did not want to stay in the industry, such as the salary structure or low wages, management issues, lack of a clear career path or lack of interest in the job.
âIt’s a concern,â Coley said. âIn some cases, something attracted them: They had a better opportunity elsewhere. But in a lot of cases, it’s because we’ve driven them out of the auto industry. How did we repel them? With mediocre wages or low wages. They couldn’t get along with their boss or coworkers. Either they didn’t enjoy the job or they lost interest. The way I see them is if you aren’t making a lot of money and enjoying the work you do, you probably started off on the wrong foot from the start. You didn’t get off to a good start in the industry, so you didn’t hold out.
One way to fix the âleaky pipeline,â Coley said is to make sure more students get real âwork-based learningâ as part of their training program. Not just a part-time job “sweeping the floors or turning the oil filters”, he said, but a structured apprenticeship or work-study program with the workshop and the school working together to help make students “more productive when entering the industry, ready for more rewarding and interesting work, and justifying a living wage.
Among graduates working in the industry, Coley said, 62% said they had taken a workplace apprenticeship as part of their training. Less than half (47 percent) of graduates who were not working in the industry after two years had a workplace learning experience.
âWe think that’s a telling number,â Coley said.
The industry also needs to get more involved in schools, said George Arrants, vice president of the ASE Education Foundation, whether as a member of the advisory board, a judge of SkillsUSA or even just as a guest speaker. . Arrants said another survey in May of high school automotive training students asked who had visited or presented to their class (in person or virtually) this school year. About 40 percent said someone from a community college or for-profit auto training program spoke that year at school. But only about 1 in 4 (27 percent) said someone from a local store or dealership introduced, and even fewer (24 percent) said a former automotive student was invited. to talk to current students.
Arrants encouraged the school’s instructors to contact their ASE Education Foundation Regional Field Manager for assistance in getting greater industry involvement in their program.
âWe want to give you the support your program needs to be successful,â Arrants told instructors. âThe more people from industry on your committee, the more opportunities your students have on the job, apprenticeship or internship. You are our customer and we are here to help.
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Pictures: Courtesy of the ASE Education Foundation