USA Today featured an article and video on our nation’s coming shortage of auto mechanics. Interest in auto repair appears to have declined and educators just can’t find students like they used to. Here’s an excerpt:
There is already competition among auto dealers in many parts of the nation to hire or retain good technicians. The bigger worry is whether there will be enough younger workers in a few years as a wave of midcareer mechanics hits retirement age.
“We’re finding we’re going to run short of technicians in the very near future,” says Rich Orbain, manager for General Motors‘ Service Technical College. “It’s already getting very difficult to get young people interested in this as a career.”
Auto-repair educators say they are fighting misconceptions about the profession. They point out that fixing cars has gone high-tech. A laptop computer is becoming as important a repair tool as a set of socket wrenches. And, in a world of job uncertainty, auto repair remains a career largely impervious to being outsourced abroad.
Find Your Calling with ResumeBuilder
Become part of the one of the largest job networks in the world
We wanted to learn more, so we pulled up some data on auto mechanics and compared them with the other mechanic occupations. Here’s what we found:
|SOC Code||Description||2009 Jobs||2012 Jobs||Change||% Change||Median Hourly Wage||Education Level|
|Source: QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed & Extended Proprietors - EMSI 2012.2 Class of Worker|
|49-3011||Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians||120,187||122,610||2,423||2%||$25.00||Postsecondary vocational award|
|49-3023||Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||792,362||805,830||13,468||2%||$15.41||Postsecondary vocational award|
|49-3031||Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||255,807||257,906||2,099||1%||$18.76||Postsecondary vocational award|
|49-3041||Farm Equipment Mechanics||33,723||34,099||376||1%||$15.68||Long-term on-the-job training|
|49-3042||Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines||130,819||134,784||3,965||3%||$20.89||Long-term on-the-job training|
|49-3043||Rail Car Repairers||21,038||22,349||1,311||6%||$22.32||Long-term on-the-job training|
|49-3051||Motorboat Mechanics||38,381||38,825||444||1%||$14.09||Long-term on-the-job training|
|49-3052||Motorcycle Mechanics||22,574||21,814||(760)||(3%)||$13.95||Long-term on-the-job training|
|49-3053||Outdoor Power Equipment and Other Small Engine Mechanics||37,022||37,827||805||2%||$12.73||Moderate-term on-the-job training|
Observations from the table:
- Overall, these occupations grew by 2% from 2009 to 2012. Rail car repairers has grown the fastest (6%), but motorcycle repair has declined by 3%. Eight of the nine occupations have actually experienced job growth, which is encouraging.
- Together these nine occupations added 24,000 jobs to the economy since 2009. More than half of the total job growth comes from auto repair (13,500 jobs), which is also the largest occupation category. There are nearly 1.5 million mechanic jobs in the U.S. and 800,000 of them (53%) are auto mechanics. Mobile heavy equipment mechanics added 4,000 jobs and aircraft mechanics added 2,400.
- The highest-paying job on the list is aircraft mechanics ($25 per hour on average), followed by rail car repairers ($22.32) and mobile heavy equipment mechanics ($20.89). The average for all nine is $17.27.
- Only three of the mechanic occupations (aircraft, auto, and bus/truck) require a postsecondary vocational award. All others just need long-term or moderate-term on-the-job experience.
Observations about the chart:
- According to our data, about 40,000 mechanics will turn over this year. This is not measuring jobs added, which is actually far less than the turnover. These are just the mechanics leaving the workforce by switching fields or retiring.
- We also estimate that 47% of all mechanics are above the age of 45, which means that the turnover number will stay pretty high in the coming years. Much like the USA Today article states, this puts extra demand on the system to produce more mechanics.
- Nearly 60,000 mechanic degrees were awarded in 2010. But that doesn’t mean all these completers work as a mechanic.
Here is a look at the top training programs that prepare mechanics:
Mechanics by State
Finally, here is a look at the relative proportion of mechanics by state.
|State Name||2009 Jobs||2012 Jobs||Change||% Change||2012 Annual Openings||Median Hourly Earnings||2009 National Location Quotient|
|District of Columbia||1,437||1,483||46||3%||71||$27.07||0.21|
- California and Texas employ the most — no surprise there. The big thing to note, and perhaps the most interesting fact on this table, is that Texas added more jobs than any other state (roughly 8,600 since 2009) and California lost more than any other state (roughly 1,400 since 2009).
- With 20% new jobs since 2009, North Dakota — by far — had the best percentage growth. Texas was second with 7%.
- The highest pay is found in Washington, D.C. ($10 higher than the national average), and there appears to be a very low concentration of mechanics in the area. The location quotient is only 0.21 (the national average is 1.0). We’re thinking it might be hard to find a good mechanic in D.C.! Alaska is second in terms of pay, followed by Nevada and Washington state.
- Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, West Virgina, Montana, Maine, and Oklahoma all have concentrations of mechanics above the national average.