For the first time in 10 years, tech schools have seen an increase in student completions in all segments, signaling positive change in the perception and viability of technician careers, according a new report from TechForce Foundation.
TechForce Foundation is a national not-for-profit dedicated to helping people explore and pursue the technician profession, and it published this and other findings in its 2023 Technician Supply & Demand Report.
A Growing Technician Workforce
The report covers projections for the next five years. It primarily looks at the demand for new entrant technicians (needed to keep up with growth in new positions and replacement of retiring techs) and the supply of graduates being produced by postsecondary tech schools and community colleges nationwide.
TechForce noted that in recent years, the automotive, collision, and diesel industries have suffered from a massive gap in supply and demand. This has, in turn, led to a significant technician workforce shortage that has plagued the industry for decades.
In this year’s report, however, TechForce finds that collective completions of postsecondary automotive, collision, diesel, and aviation programs actually increased for the first time in a decade.
“This is wonderful news,” said Jennifer Maher, CEO, TechForce Foundation. “TechForce Foundation and its donors have worked tirelessly to dispel the outdated stigmas; to share the upside and advantages that a technician career offers; to show respect for techs and their vital role in keeping America moving; and helping young people who love problem-solving, technology and working with their hands to find an education and career that fits! When we see an uptick in program completions, we have faith that the hard work is paying off.”
TechForce’s 2023 Technician Supply & Demand Report shows that the technician workforce grew by 4.3% from 2021 to 2022, outpacing the growth of the overall U.S. labor force (4%) for the first time.
Gaps Remain in Filling Technician Pipeline
While this is good news, the report still finds some gaps remain.
For example, the report noted that automotive industry in general needs 795,000 new automotive, diesel, collision repair, aviation, and avionics technicians to meet demand over the next five years. Even with the uptick in completions of tech school and community college programs, the technician shortage problem continues to persist.
“Through this year’s data analysis, we expect nearly 800,000 new technicians to be needed over the next five years,” said Greg Settle, author of the report and director emeritus of national initiatives at TechForce Foundation. This number is down from last year’s projection of 1 million new hires deemed necessary to fill the gap.
"While a number of factors influence overall demand, the increase in technical school graduates and the growth of the total number of technicians employed from 2021 to 2022 certainly account for a good part of the decrease.”
Diesel Technicians Still in Demand
Of the 795,000 new technicians required, Settle said automotive technician demand is still the highest at 495,000. Diesel technicians follow at 152,000, collision repair at 110,000, and aviation and avionics still needs 68,000 new hires.
“The decrease in open positions is certainly encouraging,” Settle added, “as well as the increase in both technicians employed and postsecondary technical program graduates. Hopefully, the past year’s trend of increased graduates continues, as we still have many more open positions than graduates ready to join the workforce.
"Collision repair has the biggest challenge ahead, with 6.7 jobs available for every graduate, followed by 3.1 for diesel, 2.6 for automotive and 1.2 in aviation.”
TechForce’s annual Technician Supply & Demand Report is a resource to executives, educators, students, policymakers, researchers, and reporters nationwide. Last year’s report was downloaded 1,600 times with more than 500 citations in print and broadcast news coverage, academic papers, and congressional hearings.
The report also provides projections for the impact of electric vehicles on workforce needs.
“We need to do everything we can to inspire and support those who want to pursue the technician career path,” Maher added. “Too often, students either don’t start or have to drop out of their technical education because of financial barriers."
TechForce will award $2.3 million in scholarships and grants this year alone, he said, but the foundation needs more donations to provide funding for more students.