Auto mechanics

Help needed: auto mechanic – School news network

GRCC, Kent ISD – Collin Wooten enjoys repairing cars, performing maintenance services, and replacing parts to keep vehicles running smoothly and efficiently.

“I’ve always loved cars and working on them is really fun… I like hands-on work more than computer work,” Wooten said as he changed the coolant on a 2002 Ford Ranger in the bathroom. classroom / garage that houses the Automotive Technology Program at Grand Rapids Community College. Wooten is studying for his associate degree in automotive technology.

A 2020 graduate from Sparta High School, Wooten started at GRCC with credits from three classes already under his course tool belt which he took as a junior and senior: on brakes, steering and suspension. , and an introductory course in Kent Career Tech Center’s Automotive Technology Program.

“There is an incredible demand for skilled tradespeople in general. The automotive industry in particular is in dire need of service technicians.

– Matt Snyder, Corporate Technical Recruiter for Zeigler Automotive Group

Now he is taking courses in heating, ventilation and air conditioning and driving diagnostics at GRCC, while working part-time in an independent repair shop as a mechanic. He eventually hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering from Ferris State University.

The proximity and partnerships between the GRCC and Tech Center programs and local dealerships help her make smooth transitions throughout her studies.

A demand for qualified mechanics

Wooten has reason to feel secure about the prospects for employment. As the industry is constantly evolving in terms of technology and efficiency, the fundamentals of auto repair will remain the same, its instructors say. Service technicians will always be needed to perform basic maintenance and repair tasks, such as replacing brake pads and changing the oil. These skills are currently in high demand.

“There is a fairly constant shortage of qualified technicians in the field,” said Ben Smith, assistant professor in the GRCC Automotive Technology program. With around 70 people enrolled this year, Smith hopes to bump the number back to around 100. “I don’t think people still see it as a career choice,” he said. “You do pretty high-tech stuff; it’s not just the big job you think of a mechanic. It’s a tough career.

Many students are already working in body shops. “Most students, if they really want a job, there is no doubt that we can find them a job,” said Nathan Vannest, instructor of the Tech Center program, where many students get certifications for jobs and continue their training at the GRCC.

Instructors Chris Yetzke and Mike Pekrul teach in the GRCC and Tech Center programs.

“The last time I checked, the average age of a technician in the United States was, I think, 53, so there are a lot of people retiring,” Yetzke said.

Cooper Bueche, a high school student from Comstock Park High School, labels parts at the Kent Career Tech Center. He plans to attend GRCC next year to continue his training in automotive technology

“Unlimited opportunities for compensation and growth”

GRCC is partnering with manufacturers to align the curriculum with the training needed, such as with Fiat Chrysler for the Mopar Career Automotive program. In 2020, Mopar reported an increase in demand for 45,000 auto technician jobs by 2026.

With a median salary of $ 20.24 an hour, associate or GRCC certification programs are direct pathways to automotive careers. GRCC offers an 18-week program that covers four of the eight certification areas, a one-year certificate program that teaches all eight areas, and a two-year associate’s degree program. The associate’s degree program transfers to a bachelor’s degree program at Ferris State University, which is the path Wooten hopes to take.

In terms of jobs, the GRCC and Tech Center’s automotive technology programs have strong partnerships with employers. Matt Snyder, a corporate technical recruiter for Zeigler Automotive Group, works to find service technicians for 30 dealerships in three states. It partners with the Tech Center and the GRCC to help Zeigler dealers recruit service technicians.

“There is an incredible demand for skilled tradespeople in general. The auto industry in particular is in dire need of service technicians, ”Snyder said. “The Kent ISD and GRCC programs prepare students very well for in-demand careers with unlimited opportunities for growth and compensation. A good technician can write their own ticket and live anywhere in the country of their choice within reason. The best technicians earn between $ 80,000 and over $ 100,000 per year. The reality is that compensation is not based on credentials but on skills, certifications and work ethic.

Snyder cited one of the main reasons the demand is so high is that for many years high school students have been pressured to pursue a bachelor’s degree regardless of the results.

“There was an idea / reflection process that in order to be successful in life you had to have a four-year degree. Over the past 25 years, high schools have dramatically reduced vocational education, reducing or eliminating programs such as metallurgy, welding, and automotive.

But this shortfall has created opportunities for those who wish to pursue a practical career, he said.

“When the demand for your skills is high and the supply is low, it’s a winning combination for a person to have good career prospects. ”

The Tech Center and GRCC help students develop basic skills so that they, in turn, can build on those certifications during their careers, Yetzke said.

“Technology is changing, but the basics really don’t change here; it is a more basic knowledge of systems. “In this job, you never stop learning.

Vannest added: “We can give them a good start for this; GRCC can give them a better start for this. At the dealership, learning will never stop.