Not Your Grandfather's Oldsmobile - Gaining High Tech Skills for a High Tech Industry

January 6, 2016

Today, fixing a car means a whole lot more than raiding your dad’s set of wrenches. Cars today are essentially computers on wheels, and modern auto service technicians must be experts in the complex, innovative digital systems and technologies that power them.

Yet, the U.S. faces a dire shortage of technicians. The U.S. Department of Labor projects there will be more than 1.2 million jobs in the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine industries by the year 2024. In order to meet demand, the transportation industry will need to fill more than 37,000 technician job openings on average every year.

“Our business and our need for highly skilled technicians is growing fast,” says Juergen Steinhart, Senior Manager, Service Training, Daimler Trucks North America, LLC. “To serve their customers and continue to thrive, our dealers need a steady flow of professional, entry-level technicians ready to hit the ground running.”

Manufacturers’ training programs can’t keep pace with the demand and the high-tech, hands-on training modern technicians need often isn’t available in traditional academic settings. Solving the shortage requires job-driven, industry-focused partnerships – the kind of partnerships pioneered by Universal Technical Institute (UTI).  

By building a curriculum based on automotive companies’ needs, students graduate not only with the knowledge and skills that employers want, but a direct pipeline to jobs.

UTI has been training transportation service technicians for more than 50 years and is the only technical college in the U.S. to partner directly with manufacturers of more than 30 top brands. It’s a model that’s produced some of the most innovative and sophisticated education programs in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, marine and motorsports industries, and gives students industry-relevant skills, supplied straight from the manufacturer.

By building a curriculum based on automotive companies’ needs, students graduate not only with the knowledge and skills that employers want, but a direct pipeline to jobs. As a result, four out of five graduates get jobs they trained for at UTI.

“Our approach is addressing a critical need in an industry that’s the backbone of our economy, and helping more of our nation’s young people succeed at jobs that pay well, cannot be outsourced or off-shored and offer great opportunities for advancement,” says Jerry Rutter, Vice President of Industry and Employer Solutions, Universal Technical Institute.

By focusing on demand, UTI has become a preferred provider to the top automotive companies in the country. This same demand-driven focus is central to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s signature workforce initiative, Talent Pipeline Management.

In the new implementation guide, Building the Talent Pipeline, USCCF outlines six key strategies that use principles of supply chain management to build career pathways that start with the end-customer in mind—employers. Once training partners understand employer needs, as UTI has done, they can create programs that give students the competencies needed to succeed in the workplace.

It’s unlikely that we’ll return to the days where cars can be fixed with the toolbox in your garage, and America’s middle-skills job are only going to get more complex. UTI’s unique partnership model points the way to a solution for our skills gap challenge, and is helping today’s vehicles, and the industries that rely on them, keep rolling. 


Carrie Samson is associate manager of programs at the USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce.