Those $125/hr (or more) labor charges at the dealership aren’t all just going to the bottom line. dealers are having to pay more and more to recruit and keep qualified techs these days, despite the fact that they can earn $100,000 year after achieving master mechanic status and five years’ experience. But with retirements and a 20% turnover in the field, there’s a constant need for new recruits. Companies like BMW are getting more involved, with aggressive recruitment campaigns and a training facility (picture above).
One of the key issues is that kids aren’t exposed to mechanical activities in their early days, and most high school programs have been shut down. From an article at the NYT:
“There’s less of a mechanical interest and understanding among young people,” said Gary Uyematsu, national technical training manager at BMW of North America, noting that the biggest hurdle in hiring is the difference in basic skills. “They are not hands-on. Mechanics used to start with some gas station experience. Now the experience a person gets working at a gas station is selling slushies.”
BMW offers a 16 week program, without tuition, which places a heavy emphasis on electronic diagnostic skills, as that’s of course increasingly the critical skill set needed to diagnose issues on modern cars. Some 90% of BMW’s program is on electronic systems, which of course every BMW is chock-full of. But those tools need to bu interpreted:
One of the most common misunderstandings about the technician’s job is the role of the computerized repair systems, according to Mr. Uyematsu. “Diagnostic equipment does not tell you what’s wrong,” he said. “It’s just a tool, and a diagnostician needs to interpret the messages.”
For the mechanically-inclined, the potential for good earnings are there, without student loans. The trick is to find enough young people interested and willing to do this work.