Issue

CalABC California Automotive Business Coalition

As one of the top ten economies of the world , California has the largest and most diverse economy in the United States and its primary industry clusters include professional business and information businesses (30% of the economy) , diversified manufacturing (17%), wholesale trade and transportation (18%), and high-tech manufacturing (7%). Many of these industries are in the midst of transformation and are adapting to changing technologies, while others are expanding and growing. Emerging industry clusters include life science and services, value-added supply chain manufacturing and logistics, green technologies and renewable energy, and nanotechnology. 

Maintaining California’s competitive edge will depend on the state’s ability to link education and the economy and fill the workforce needs of the jobs of the future. In order for the state to meet growing workforce shortages in a number of industries, the education system must provide sufficient secondary and postsecondary technical training programs in strategic sectors such as health care, green technology, information technology, manufacturing, and others. The State recognizes the value of skilled labor and through its numerous workforce development and job training programs, demonstrates its commitment to enhancing the skills of California’s workforce and expanding access to training and apprenticeship programs that increase opportunities and income for California workers. At the same time, the State aims to help meet businesses’ rapidly increasing workforce needs as well as to promote job creation. 

While there is much more to do in California to address the current education crisis and prepare for the future, there are existing efforts to address workforce shortage concerns, primarily through additional funding of education programs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 are believed to have the greatest potential to alleviate the critical shortage in workforce development programs by increasing California’s postsecondary education funding. 

However, it has become evident that the State’s primary tools for workforce development, K-12 education, California Community Colleges (CCC), and California State University and University of California (UC) systems, cannot meet the current and projected workforce needs. As a result, California risks falling behind in its ability to produce skilled employees who are required to maintain its competitive economic edge. Private postsecondary institutions provide an alternative for meeting an individual’s career aspirations and employers’ workforce needs. 

To date the State has put little emphasis on these independent educational institutions’ role in its overall workforce development strategy. Moreover, there have been no significant studies to compare the efficacy of their training programs to those offered by traditional public universities and colleges, but the general consensus is that lack of access to public secondary schools is one of the biggest barriers to workforce development. Because of acute course shortages, lack of hands-on training materials and instructors, and overcrowding in public education institutions, students are not able to acquire the training they need to obtain the skills necessary for entry into many growing industries. Similarly, the lack of state oversight for private post secondary intuitions can dissuade students from utilizing their services out of concern that their certifications, training programs, or degrees may be in sufficient. These educational barriers to workforce development may be overcome by an increased focus from the State Legislature and executive agencies. 

The purpose of this hearing is to examine the ability of private postsecondary institutions to provide the education and job skill needs of California’s workforce and evaluate policy options that allow them to expand their curriculums and career training programs with the requisite amount of oversight required to protect students. 

We are challenged as an industry because we need workers with a range of real-world skills.

  • Technicians need mechanical aptitude, diagnostic abilities and a good understanding and command of the English language as most of the material they cover only comes in English (Vehicle Owner’s Manuals, Technician Service Bulletins etc).
  • In addition to mechanical competencies, technicians are also going to need computer skills and a thorough understanding of electricity given the increase in Electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Sales and management positions will also require solid reading, writing, and arithmetic capabilities. Let’s face it today’s world is becoming more competitive and complex. The student with the greatest number of skills will be the most sought after by employers.

To develop these opportunities we need an education and workforce development system that values these professions. 

The automotive service industry provides high-paying middle class jobs. The range of salaries varies with the level of skill and proficiency.

  • Entry level technicians can earn from $30,000
  • Mid level technicians will earn $40,000 to $60,000
  • Master / Lead technicians will earn $55,000 to well over $100,000.

First the need for skilled workers.

  • Career opportunities in the automotive service industry continue to grow.
  • According to the California Employment Development Department, we need to fill more than 2,700 job openings, each year between 2006 and 2016 with newly trained and skilled technicians.
  • There are plenty of jobs, available in the automotive industry.

While car dealers are suffering through this difficult time, the automotive aftermarket repair industry is actually seeing an upsurge in sales. Consumers are keeping their existing cars longer and doing more repairs because they plan to be in their vehicle longer. In current studies, R.J. POLK Research found the average consumer surveyed in 2007 was keeping their vehicle 9.2 years compared to 6.5 years in 1990. This number will only increase in today’s time of economic uncertainty. 

Between 2004 and 2014, the demand for automotive service technicians and mechanics will grow as the number of vehicles in operation increases; reflecting continued growth in the number of multi-car families. Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to increase by 14% between 2006 and 2016, compared to 10% for all other occupations. It will add a large number of new jobs, about 110,000, over the decade.13 Growth in demand will be offset somewhat by slowing population growth and the continuing increase in the quality and durability of automobiles, which will require less frequent service. Still, additional job openings will increase due to the need to replace a growing number of retiring technicians, who tend to be the most experienced workers. 

Automotive service technicians’ and mechanics’ responsibilities have evolved from simple mechanical repairs to high-level technology-related work. The increasing sophistication of automobiles requires workers who can use computerized shop equipment and work with electronic components while maintaining their skills with traditional hand tools. Formal automotive technician training is the best preparation for these challenging technology-based jobs. According to the California Automotive Business Coalition (CaIABC), “the pipeline for new technicians is down to just a trickle and it clearly isn’t enough to keep up with the vast numbers of current technicians who over the next few years are going to retire”. CalABC has been at the forefront of this battle in working for funding for secondary education earmarked for technical training. According to CaIABC, private postsecondary colleges have been a great resource for students looking to enter the industry, but like high school automotive training courses, these programs are under fire from budget constraints. CalABC maintains that “private technical trade training schools are trying to fill the gap and they have made a difference”. The problem remains that there currently exists no feeder system which helps bring new people into the trade.

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