Auto mechanics

Auto mechanic shortage is forcing dealers to take action

Enlisting the right recruits is not easy.

“There is less mechanical interest and understanding among young people,” said Gary Uyematsu, national director of technical training at BMW of North America, noting that the biggest barrier to hiring is the difference in skills. basic. “They are not manual. Mechanics used to start with some experience in gas stations. Now the experience that a person gets from working in a gas station is selling slushies.

With a traditional source of mechanics largely gone, automakers had no choice but to take the initiative.

Fiat Chrysler’s approach to recruiting new technicians takes the form of what is now called the Mopar Career Automotive program. Launched in the 1980s, it works in collaboration with community colleges and trade schools. Students are eligible for internships, which allow them to earn an income and gain work experience while still in school. There are now 80 affiliate programs, with approximately 4,000 students working towards certification of Fiat Chrysler products through a 12-18 month program or a two year associate degree.

The tuition, according to Fiat Chrysler’s Fox, is equivalent to the cost of one year at a four-year public college. “At the end of the course, a student has reached the first two of the four levels of expertise,” he added, preparing him for a position in the service department.

BMW, whose vehicles are brimming with electronic technology, has been particularly ambitious in its efforts to keep dealers afloat and car buyers on the road. At the North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, where one of BMW’s five National Training Centers is located on a suburban campus, students in the Maintenance Technician Training Program complete both manuals and practical mechanical work in combined classroom workshops.

The program, known as STEP, has graduated over 3,500 students since its inception in 1996 and does not charge student tuition fees; the costs are covered by the dealer who hires them. A 16-week BMW-specific course prepares students, who are chosen from the top 10% of their class in a post-secondary automotive training program. About 400 students complete the program each year, and 94 percent are placed in concession jobs, Uyematsu said.