Grab technicians with technology

Sept. 14, 2018
Do vocational schools need a new approach when it comes to attracting new students?

It’s hard to believe that August has come and gone, and we are wrapping up the PTEN September issue. Next up – AAPEX is just around the corner. The annual AAPEX and SEMA shows will once again take place in Las Vegas (October 30 through November 2). Just like past years, our editorial team is gearing up to bring you the latest product previews, recaps and must-sees from the show floor. In addition to checking out new tools and equipment, our editors will be sitting in on training sessions that address aftermarket challenges and trends.

I’m sure more than a few of these will address emerging vehicle technologies and their impact on the aftermarket. In my editor’s column last March, I briefly touched on the many ways cars are changing and mused that the "new breed" of technicians will need to change, too.

The trouble is not merely that shops have a worker shortage to contend with (though that is quite true), but also that the learning curve has shifted tremendously with new vehicle technology. I wonder if, in some way, this is also an opportunity.

An advisory board member recently observed, “We need to do a better job of capturing their [young technicians] interest in technology.” The students, young adults and career-changers coming into the field are likely to bring with them a knowledge of ADAS, hybrid and autonomous vehicles.

Brian Daugherty, chief technology officer of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), echoed this sentiment in a recent blog when he said, “We are in the very early stages of an amazing revolution in vehicle technology.” He referenced the course of autonomous vehicles, but also the progress of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology. Daugherty says the largest and most significant improvements in safety in the next few years will come from ADAS and V2V systems that “help humans be better drivers by assisting them when an error is made or a distraction occurs.”

Toyota recently announced they will begin equipping all of their vehicles with V2V equipment in the U.S. starting in 2021.

On the one hand, it is up to vocational schools to zero in on placing students in the right fields, and work with the industry to ensure curriculum stays on the forefront of vehicles and repair technology. Some programs might need to re-tool their operations and syllabus to bring exciting advancements to the forefront.

Though, it’s not all about Vo-tech. Repair shops play a part in this, too. Local businesses can help to bring up new technicians (and their future employees) by getting involved at the local level. Get together with school administrators to make sure you have a say in what you’re looking for in the shop.

It sounds simple right? But if it were indeed so simple, the well-acknowledged technician shortage wouldn’t persist. Whose job it is to make technology intriguing to young people who may not consider this path as a first, second or even third option? What is the best way to hook them?

The answer I’m hearing (with ever-growing emphasis) is, we all have a part to play when it comes to shaping the future of the aftermarket, and students who will one day be valued professionals.

About the Author

Sara Scullin | Editor | PTEN and Professional Distributor

Sara Scullin is the editor of PTEN and Professional Distributor magazines. These publications are part of the Endeavor Business Media Vehicle Repair Group, which includes Fleet Maintenance, Professional Tool & Equipment News (PTEN), Professional Distributor magazines and

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