Monday, March 25, 2013

Mechanic shortage?

I ran across a post dated March 11, 2013 that starts as follows:

In an effort to combat the rising technician shortage in the trucking market, TMC has created a technician career path development task force to help retain, recruit and promote quality technicians. The new task force debuted Monday at TMC’s Annual Meeting in Nashville, and was led by Brian Mulshine at Navistar and Chris Harvey at PACCAR.

Technician shortage? Really? Much has been made the last few years about the shortage of mechanics becoming worse in the near future. My question is, if there really is a tech shortage, how come wages aren't going up? Look at the median technician wages for the past 5 years:

Now, the chart caption says that wages have gone up $3010.00 from 2007 to 2012. But I submit that looking at the numbers in this way skews the facts. Why not compare wages to the peak in 2008, before the bottom fell out of transportation and nothing was on the road? Looked at this way, wages have gone up just $1470.00 in 4 years. If the industry really wants to attract new blood it will need to increase wages more than that. More importantly, quality people will need to be attracted to education programs that teach the skills actually needed at the entry level. For instance in my opinion, teaching engine building in a truck mechanic program is a waste of time. True, basic engine function and an overview of troubleshooting is necessary, but what is really needed is a deeper understanding of brakes, clutches, driveline, and especially electrical/electronic systems. In other words, how to do the bulk of the work seen in a repair shop.

If smart, technically savvy people are going to be drawn into the industry, they will need to be attracted from those now going into other technical fields, fields where one may not need to climb around on or work under dirty, dripping equipment on a daily basis. The only way to do that is with higher pay.

I think the shortage is a lack of good people who will work for the wages offered, rather than a shortage of good techs.

We as mechanics are part of the problem. Every time we misdiagnose an electrical problem because we do not understand how a relay works, we give our employer a reason to realize less value in what we do. If one of us feels he can do his job without understanding how to use diagnostic software or online resources, he probably deserves less pay. If we expect our employer to increase our pay, we need to become more enthusiastic about keeping up with new technology.

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