HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The national shortage of automotive technicians can be felt in the central region of Virginia as repair shops experience longer repair and wait times.
Nonprofit TechForce Foundation — which supports young people find technical education in fields such as the automotive industry, trucking and agriculture — released a report in 2020 revealing between 2020 to 2024, approximately 642,000 auto, diesel and collision technicians will be needed.
The National Automobile Dealers Association said the industry needs to replace 76,000 technicians each year, which leaves an annual shortage of 37,000 workers.
Certified Auto Repair store manager Robbie Althizer said the pandemic brought a great impact on the shortage, but it has been that way well before, starting with the push for college in previous generations, where the idea of trade schools got pushed to the side.
“The biggest problem we have is those guys are looking at retirement and I don’t have anybody that they can train for the next generation,” Althizer said.
Technicians at Certified Auto Repair are now seeing almost 500 cars coming in for repairs a month — an increase from the 100 to 150 seen a few years ago.
“It takes them I would say about two days to get the car through the door-from the moment it shows up to the moment it leaves, that’s now, a few months ago, it was probably a day, half-a day to a day,” said Althizer.
Althizer is now partnering with out-of-state companies to train the next generation of automotive technicians.
It’s a task he says is not easy, with the younger generation being uninterested or lacking the initial knowledge of the industry.
“It’s harder to get the younger generation because they see ‘hey I want to make this kind of money,’ well, you’ve got to earn [it]. Starting off, they’re not making that money and they just shut down,” Althizer said, “They don’t know that you have to buy your tools upfront, which is a high expense in a technician’s career-worth of tools upfront, which is a high expense.”
A technician’s career-worth of tools can total up to $60,000, which can be paid in increments, but can make for a big deterrent, according to Althizer.
Althizer hopes there will soon be a relief with the shortage in technicians. If not, he said it’s going to have a serious impact on the public.
“You’re going to have to rely on public transportation or you’re going to have to wait four, five, six months to get your car fixed depending on parts, and when the shop of your choice can get to the car,” Althizer explained.