Shop owners who cry for technician training; act, don’t shout

When the Right to Repair law grabbed center stage in the national media last year as Massachusetts became the first state to pass a Right to Repair law, many shop owners were quick to criticize all the attention given to what they considered a secondary issue in their industry. The bigger issue, critics claimed, was technician training.

The aftermarket industry has long wrestled with technician training. As vehicles have become more complex, shops have had to invest more money in tools, salaries, overhead and training. Today, the issue has become more critical than ever, with no solution in sight.

Earlier this year, a VehicleServicePros reader poll found readers almost evenly split on whether technician licensing should be mandatory.

A more recent poll by the International Automotive Technicians Network similarly found almost half of the members support mandatory certification; most of the other half either don’t support it or are unsure.

While shop owners have mixed views about mandatory certification, there is no lack of clarity about the need for more technician training. This much is evident from the hundreds of comments posted on automotive aftermarket Internet forums. Shop owners clearly agree technicians are not getting the training they need.

Aftermarket trade organizations could be doing more to address this issue. They sponsor training at industry events. They support public information campaigns to educate consumers about aftermarket professionalism.

But they need to do more.

Are wages the problem? Possibly. According to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association Factbook, technician wages have risen just over 2 percent a year since 2003. (That doesn’t keep up with inflation, but it’s better than wages in many industries.)

Technicians need more training to keep up with changing technology. They also need more tools to handle the repairs.

If every shop owner who takes time to express his frustration on an Internet forum commits to take some type of constructive action, something would get done about the problem. Shop owners can communicate their concerns with trade organizations, support vocational trade schools, get involved in educational fundraising, or network with other shop owners to develop local mentoring programs. Oftentimes, creative solutions are born of collective action.

Bottom line: technician training demands industrywide action.