2021 Auto News

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY IS HELPING FUEL THE RED-HOT AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

Credits: swinchamber.com

Going, going, gone. New and used vehicles in the United States are selling faster than you can say TikTok.

A lack of new and used vehicle inventory is making it difficult for individuals to purchase a vehicle, so they’re keeping the one they already have.

The limited vehicle inventory is due to pent-up customer demand as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a global computer chip shortage, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. The NADA reports 4.6 million vehicles have not been produced globally as a result of the chip shortage as of late June.

There is also a huge demand for automotive technicians and collision repair technicians, which translates into career security and an abundance of employment opportunities in these fields.

Ruxer Ford Lincoln Vice-President and Partner Phil Abbett said, “It used to be come see me when you have a couple of years of experience, and now we’re trying to identify high school students who are going into college programs. A lot of people coming out of college pro-grams are already hired before they finish the program.”

Vincennes University has a lengthy history of preparing students for in-demand careers in a competitive automotive industry. It has had an excellent reputation for producing quali-ty Automotive Technology graduates since 1964. In addition to Automotive Technology, VU offers an associate degree in Collision Repair and Refinishing.

The TechForce Foundation revealed 642,000 auto/diesel/collision techs are needed be-tween 2020 and 2024 to replace individuals retiring or leaving the industry and to handle new growth. The Foundation cites in a report released last year that there is both increasing de-mand for new professional techs and a declining supply of new techs entering the industry.

“There are tens of thousands of unfilled openings across this country right now for techni-cians and body,” Abbett said.

These job vacancies have the potential to greatly impact people who need repairs or work done on their vehicles.

“You’re going to start seeing places cutting (business) hours, the wait times for getting re-pairs are going to be longer, and people may have to start driving farther away to get their vehicles
worked on,” Abbett said.

Ruxer Ford Lincoln Collision Repair Technician and 2007 VU graduate Neil Hellman person-ally attests to the fact that demand is high for technicians.

“I’m confident and don’t have a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have the slightest problem moving to any state and finding a shop to work,” he said. “There’s great potential in this field in the availability of jobs and the potential income. I wouldn’t have ever thought you can make the money you make in this field.”

Abbett knows technicians who are making between $80,000 and $120,000.

The average annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $44,050 in May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the top 10 percent making more than $71,940. For automotive body and related repairers, the annual median wage was $45,350 in May 2020 with the highest 10 percent earning more than $56,760.

Today’s technicians are increasingly skilled and tech-savvy. They are closer to computer hackers than blue-collar wrench hands, according to Industry Tap. Vehicles have become more high-tech with the addition of self-driving automobiles, hybrid engines, 360-degree cameras, advanced driver assist systems, built-in Wi-Fi, and so forth.

VU Dean of Technology and VU Automotive Technology graduate Ty Freed said, “Automo-tive and Collision Repair technicians are in high demand. Many experienced technicians are retiring, and new technicians are not entering the profession in numbers to fill the void. Mod-ern automobiles are incredibly sophisticated and require a diverse skill set to make quality repairs. The VU Automotive Technology and Collision Repair programs prepare students to make quality automotive repairs, become problem solvers, communicate effectively, and be-come valuable members of their communities.”

Employers prefer that automotive service technicians, mechanics, and collision technicians complete a program or training at a postsecondary institution, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Abbett agrees. He earned an associate degree from VU in Automotive Technology in 1997.

VU’s Automotive Technology program prepares students for successful employment by help-ing them develop critical repair skills in a hands-on learning environment where they utilize specialized diagnostic equipment, service tools, and information systems.

Students in VU’s Collision Repair and Refinishing program learn the skills needed to work in collision repair facilities by training on modern equipment in a recently expanded Collision Repair Building. They also become well versed in repair estimating and insurance aspects of collision repair.

Collision repair and refinishing are critical since vehicles are such a large investment for peo-ple, and they are keeping their vehicles longer than ever.

Students enrolled in the Automotive Technology and Collision Repair and Refinishing pro-grams are provided with true, real-world experience. As part of their coursework, they per-form service work and collision repair on vehicles owned by Vincennes University employees and students.

Access to Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification testing, Inter-Industry Confer-ence on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certification testing, and other specialized industry training is provided to students.