According to the 2010 Edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, continued growth in the number of vehicles in use in the United States will lead to new jobs for workers performing basic car maintenance and repair, with more entry-level workers needed to perform these services. Additional job openings will also be created by the need to replace retiring baby boomers.
"The real demand is for qualified technicians - those with formal training, good diagnostic and problem-solving abilities and training in electronics and computer skills," says John Hurd, president of the WyoTech campus in Sacramento, Calif. "In fact, those without the required skills will likely face stiff competition for entry-level positions."
Despite the bright job prospects, finding talented employees with the right skill set is difficult. Hurd stressed that WyoTech makes an important contribution to the automotive industry by training young people for careers in automotive technology. He said that advances in automotive technology do not pose significant challenges for WyoTech, "As far as manufacturing, if you build it, we are going to train our technicians to fix it."
Many of WyoTech's students are entering the automotive industry from other fields and possess a passion for learning new technology. "We're seeing a lot of people entering the field from the construction field looking for opportunities - and finding them in the automotive industry," he says.
Hurd expressed the importance of reaching out to young people and helping them learn about the options for a career in automotive technology. "We have to introduce them to the industry early and really light that passion in them," he says. "That's the key to getting new people in the industry."
One of the challenges that WyoTech faces is a lack of basic knowledge among entering students. "We get students who don't even know what a screwdriver is, so we still have to start with the basics." Hurd went on to say that as a result, WyoTech adapted its curricula and programs not only to the technology, but also to the realistic needs of students today. "We've had to adjust to current and even advanced technologies so that we can introduce more hybrid technology and advanced diagnostics. You have to know how to tune the engine and chassis to work together, for instance. The adjustments we've made have allowed us to add to the programs. While we used to have a six-month program, we now go through nine-, 12- and 15-month programs so that students can raise their skill levels and become better employees."
Hurd stressed the importance of vocational education and technical colleges in helping the industry meet its future talent needs. "I think that society as a whole has to realize that four-year colleges aren't possible, desirable or necessary for everybody. A focused technical education can teach people the skills that they are going to need for the future they desire," he says.