- The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 76,600 auto mechanics should be trained each year through 2016.
- There are only 1,500 students enrolled in vo-tech high school programs in New Jersey and 163 students in two-year public colleges.
- A certified auto technician might start making $ 15 an hour, but the average salary is over $ 59,000 a year, which is near the national median.
Ruan Van Der Merwe started working with his hands when he was only 6 years old on his family’s South African farm. He always described himself as a fat monkey.
Higher education for business careers, however, was not pushed at its alma mater, Basking Ridge High School.
“It’s not that they didn’t care about tech schools, but they cared more about four-year-olds,” said Van Der Merwe, who is now 29 and a diesel technician student at the Universal. Bloomfield Technical Institute, which opened earlier this year. year.
Manufacturers such as Ford, BMW, Volvo and their dealers are hoping to help educators take the next step in auto training to meet America’s demand for repair work.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the country will need an average of 76,600 car and light truck mechanics per year until 2026. In New Jersey, that represents 3,400 jobs each year, or 23,800 over the next seven years, according to Jim Appleton, executive officer of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. And the number of young automotive technicians graduating from state vocational courses is not sufficient to meet the needs.
“The demand is staggering,” Appleton said.
New Jersey voters recently approved the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, allocating millions to vocational schools and community colleges that could impact training in automotive technology. Of the $ 500 million approved, $ 350 million will be set aside for skills training programs, as well as K-12 safety. A specific amount for vocational or automotive education has not been determined, according to Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.
“The automobile is one of the oldest programs in these schools,” she said. “It’s hard to afford the equipment, which is computer driven and continually needs updates to meet industry expectations. “
Dealerships represent 31 percent of the US technician market. They have 4.5%, or 10,400 workers, who turn keys at 520 New Jersey service centers, according to Appleton.
In the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes New Jersey, dealership technicians earn an average of $ 59,543 per year, he said.
A person who spent more time and money on a bachelor’s degree, by comparison, earned a median annual income of $ 62,600 in New Jersey in 2017, according to the US Census Bureau.
The average New Jersey hourly wage for auto technicians is $ 23, or $ 49,400 per year, according to the latest figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paying jobs come with experience, especially in dealerships and fleet management, according to industry and education officials.
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Today’s job requires computer literacy in addition to mechanical skills, making it difficult to recruit qualified candidates, said Alan Graf Jr., part owner of Teterboro Chrysler Jeep at Little Ferry.
According to the New Jersey Department of Education, 28 public high school districts offer automotive education, including vocational school districts in Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties.
About 1,500 high school students enrolled in automotive programs at the state’s 21 county vocational schools in 2015-16. There were 2,245 students enrolled in transportation studies, according to Savage.
This fall, 163 students are enrolled in automotive technician courses at two-year public colleges statewide, according to the New Jersey Office of Higher Education.
But not all graduates of an automotive vocational training program begin working as a mechanic.
Hear Owen Proctor of NorthJersey.com talk about the need for auto mechanics in New Jersey on “The Car Doctor” radio show. The story continues below.
“Whether [the students] go out in the field or not, it’s good to know how to fix something yourself, ”said Graf, whose sons, Evan and Alec Graf took automotive lessons at Ramsey High School. But if they pursue a career in auto repair, it can be rewarding, he said.
Someone fresh out of car school can make $ 20 an hour at their dealership, but over time they could make as much as $ 40 an hour, or about $ 83,200 in assuming a 40 hour work week. But workers can potentially work 90 to 100 hours per week.
“The opportunities are there as long as you have the drive,” Graf said. “I have people earning over $ 100,000 plus a pension and benefits. “
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Smaller stores, like Joe Guarino’s Automotive Center in Garfield, have the same needs and challenges.
“Finding young people who want to enter the field seems rare,” Guarino said. “For the A-List guys, they’re rare and the experienced baby boomers are retiring. “
Workers who are fresh out of school and have little experience start making between $ 15 and $ 20 in his store, but Guarino maintains competitive wages as their skills and competencies increase, he said. .
It’s a “longer path” for on-the-job interns, starting at $ 10- $ 15 an hour for light maintenance, but no in-store work is outsourced to India or India. the Sun Belt, Appleton said. An auto technician, after one to two years of training, has job security in less time, expense and debt than a four-year graduate, he said.
“I don’t think we’re doing the high school graduates a favor by directing them all to college,” he said.
Wayne Valley High School’s automotive program graduates walk away with a key certification that is required for most repair jobs. The high school shopping program is accredited by Automotive Service Excellence and only three general education high schools in New Jersey have this industry distinction.
The garage prepares students for an entry-level ASE certification, a ticket for a job. The certification is valid for two years and allows students to step in the door with no previous experience, said Ken Bergen, who taught Wayne Valley auto courses for 23 years.
In class, students learn theory and then apply their knowledge in the garage. They work on college cars, a demolition car, or small equipment like snowblowers that students bring from home.
Seven students from Wayne’s programs work in after-school commercial stores. Justin Sandner, Wayne Valley Sr., is doing a job survey at Paul’s Volvo in Hawthorne.
“I make $ 11 an hour, not bad for a student still in high school,” said the 17-year-old. “You can read any theory you want. You have to know what you’re doing, but I can’t see how you learn anything without actually doing it.”
Sandner plans to attend Pennsylvania College of Technology, where he plans to enroll in a three-year diesel program, and would earn two associate’s degrees.
After high school, many in these classes go on to further studies at four-year colleges, but some go straight to work rather than further higher education.
John Nouri Jr., of Broadway SuperCars in South Hackensack, said he was a poor student in Wayne Valley when he took the Bergen course in his senior year in 2000.
“It was the only place for me because there was no way I was going to go to college,” he said.
Training in high school, along with a course at the Lincoln Technical Institute in Mahwah, was enough to prepare him for a job with his father on Broadway Auto Repair. He eventually opened his own business, an exotic car rental store, Nouri said.
“The value of the university, besides the cost, is horrible unless you become a doctor, lawyer or architect,” Nouri said.
After working several years at Euro Performance in Bound Brook for around $ 12 an hour, Van Der Merwe, who lives in Chatham, wanted to step up his studies at the Universal Technical Institute, which opened its 13th school last August in Bloomfield.
“We have decided to come to the Metro New Jersey-New York market due to the high demand,” said UTI-Bloomfield President Steve McElfresh. “We know there are jobs that await our graduates when they are here.
About 800 students are expected to enroll each year. There are daily student shuttles from Newark Penn Station.
“We teach like you don’t know anything,” McElfresh said. “We have had students who have never touched a vehicle in their life and who have embarked on a career as an automotive technician. “
The one-year program, which can upgrade to manufacturer-designed courses, costs $ 35,000, which is more expensive than a public community college program, but it’s a quicker route than pursuing a degree. ‘partner, said the president.
The average New Jersey tuition and annual fee for a two-year public college is $ 4,652, according to the Office of Higher Education.
In addition, some high school vocational districts offer post-secondary automotive programs in the afternoon or at night. Middlesex’s annual program costs around $ 3,700, while part-time adult training elsewhere can range from $ 1,500 to $ 1,700 per program, Savage said.
Other institutes, such as Morris and Essex High Schools of Technology, offer continuing post-secondary education, typically less than $ 500 per class.
“They’re all a lot cheaper than for-profit schools,” Savage noted.
ASE certifications are available in nine categories, eight non-diesel including engine, transmission, transmission, brakes and electronics. The eight non-diesel certifications lead to the status of master technician.
UTI courses count towards ASE’s two-year on-the-job training requirement, and they orient all programs towards ASE testing, Van Der Merwe said.
After graduating in diesel and other specialty courses, he plans to receive ASE certifications leading to a career in fleet management with the hopes of earning over $ 100,000.
“This is the American dream,” said Van Der Merwe. “I hope to retire at 55 and not have to work the rest of my life.”
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