Entering its third year, Collin College’s automotive technology program has earned the highest level of accreditation recognized by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
The automotive industry is struggling to find workers in a post-pandemic world, local officials say. Universal Technical Institute representatives predict that a wave of retired mechanics will create 100,000 auto technician jobs over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 4 percent decline in employment in the field by 2029 by 2022, according to a study by software for the insurance industry, CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc.
But with its program and accreditation, Collin College is training new technicians to serve Collin County and cities like Plano.
“Our classes are in high demand,” said Elias Alba, Collin College’s interim director of automotive and collision technology. “Our classes filled up so quickly I had to open a new class.”
The Automotive Technology program offers a full degree program and certificate programs that prepare students for certification in maintenance and lighting repair, automotive service technician or major automotive service technology designations.
Accreditation is an important step in the growth of the automotive technology program, said Technical Campus Provost Bill King.
“This recognition is an indication of how seriously we take providing industry-standard training,” King said in a statement.
Before the pandemic, Brent Franks, president of North Texas Auto Dealers, which serves several counties including Collin, said it was a tough industry to fill. It is a continuous challenge that workers in this industry are “important”.
“Our communities have expanded,” Frank said. “We must have qualified technicians to repair our vehicles to protect our children’s ability to go to school and work,” he said.
A growing problem
Collin College has several industry partners for its automotive technical program, including North Texas automobile dealers. To earn the certificates, students must complete at least one automotive-related job, Elias said. Partners said students are often reaching out to the college asking if they are ready for help.
“The demand for technicians is very high,” Alba said. “We have people retiring or leaving or leaving the workforce, so our partners are desperate and need more technicians.”
Jobs for automotive technicians were among the top listings in Collin County, with 268 posted between January and July of this year, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission. They had only two other job post categories, with retail trade with 641 posts and “other services” with 1,187 posts.
Plano and McKinney were the top two cities posting the most automotive tech job openings in the county. According to data from the Texas Workforce Commission, entry-level workers can earn an average salary of $28,626 with a median salary of $50,224.
A lack of technicians is costing drivers a lot of time, the data says. According to the CCC study, the time between the start and completion of repairs increased by 2.1 days from 2019-21. By 2021, 96% of the shops reported in the survey had a two-week delay, taking longer to schedule a car to bring in for repair.
“Lack of jobs means people can’t fix their cars, fix their fire engines, fix their emergency vehicles,” Frank said.
A dynamic industry
Ewing Automotive Group has three dealerships in Plano, including Ewing Buick GMC on West Plano Parkway. The dealership offers a variety of service and repair options to drivers in Plano and Frisco, according to its website. Jeff Gadden, general manager of Ewing Buick GMC, believes Collin College’s automotive technology program will benefit local dealers and service providers.
“We were thrilled when we heard they were going to come in our backyard and offer the program,” Gaden said. “I actually went out and toured the campus and it’s a great facility.”
With labor shortages reported nationwide, Naeem Fard, manager of Luxor Automotive Ohio Drive in Plano, believes the Collin College program focused on educating the next generation of technicians is beneficial to Plano and the region.
Gadden Ewing says Buick GMC hasn’t had the same issues with hiring technicians that others in the industry have, but it’s important to have skilled and well-trained workers when they need them.
“We are lucky [with being] Being able to retain our technicians, but as demand increases and service departments become busier; [finding] Good, qualified technicians are very difficult,” he said. “If someone retires or changes their career path, it’s difficult to find someone else to build a place like this. [experience]He said.
Shane Boyle, a professor of automotive technology at the college, says one of the key challenges to finding skilled workers in the field is that cars are more electric than they were two decades ago. The development of electric vehicles has added a new component to vehicle maintenance, but gas-powered cars now have electrical components to consider.
“All the mechanical parts have gotten to the point where maintenance is minimal,” Boyle said.
The CCC study found that the challenges associated with electric vehicles include adding additional training coverage to technicians performing scans and calibrations, inspecting maintenance procedures, and charging electric vehicles.
Ignite the shift
The recognition has created more student interest in the program, Alba said.
During the spring semester, Collin College’s automotive technology program had 123 new and continuing students enrolled in the program, according to data from the college.
At the start of the new fall semester, the program had 189 new and continuing students, including a total of public college students and about 25 dual-credit high school students, Boyle said.
Enrollment has more than doubled since the program began in 2020, the data show.
Jobs in automotive technology can’t be outsourced, Alba said, so students entering the program know they’ll have jobs at home. In addition, a career in the field can be highly paid.
Career paths in automotive technology also vary, Boyle said.
“You can go in any direction you want; you don’t have to change a key,” Boyle said, adding that people can get into customer service through their certifications, automotive engineering or working with automotive manufacturers.
“For someone coming into this industry, the sky’s the limit,” says Alba.
Andrew Norsworthy contributed to this report.