What’s preventing young people from becoming automotive technicians? Is it actually the great career many fleet managers say it is? - File photo

What’s preventing young people from becoming automotive technicians? Is it actually the great career many fleet managers say it is?

File photo

It feels like we’ve been talking about a technician shortage for years. Good technicians are hard to find, especially those who can work on the diverse vehicles and equipment that government fleets have.

What’s preventing young people from becoming technicians? Is it actually the great career many fleet managers say it is?

Pros and Cons

During their school years, some discover they enjoy working with their hands and taking things apart to understand how they work. For these people, being able to do this and get paid for it sounds ideal. 

Technicians can start in the military and travel the world, as some of the industry’s top fleet managers have done. 

The median salary of automotive service technicians and mechanics is $39,550, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job outlook from 2016 to 2026 is 6% growth, about average. That means 45,900 more jobs are projected to be available in 2026 compared to the previous decade.

And those working for government agencies will likely have good benefits and a pension when they retire.

A fleet manager I know has a son who is a fleet technician, and he thinks his son has a great job.

But of course, there are disadvantages. It’s a labor-­intensive job. When we conducted our technician survey a few years ago, respondents talked about bodies that were worn down from constant labor, and one commented that this was a young person’s job. And it’s not for the weak. When I shadowed a technician at Sonoma County, Calif., earlier this year, I couldn’t even take out the battery in a car.

Another fleet manager once told me that he wouldn’t want his son to be a technician. It doesn’t pay as much as an office job could, and it doesn’t have the prestige that many white-collar jobs have. This young man had other options, and his father wanted him to take them.

Family viewpoints and expectations may influence a young person’s opinion on whether this is a viable career path. The fleet manager who did not want his son to be a technician did not start out as one, whereas the one mentioned earlier had started as a technician. 

Opportunities for Growth

For those who want to start as a technician, but don’t want to stay there, they can advance. Many fleet managers were technicians before moving up into the management role. They took on more responsibilities. They took classes at night. They learned Excel and budgeting and public speaking skills. They learned how to lead. 

Our latest salary survey shows the average government fleet manager salary is $93,660. That’s a salary a lot of people would be happy with.

So is being a technician a good career path? For most people with an aptitude for this, it sounds like a yes. And at least in the public fleet industry, depending on personality, what they like to do, and how much effort they’re willing to put in, they can retire as technicians or from management positions.

At the conference of the Florida Association of Governmental Fleet Administrators (FLAGFA) in September, a young technician-­in-training spoke to attendees about how a scholarship the association provided helped him and his family financially. 

It was nice to hear from someone who sounded excited about his upcoming career. No matter where he ends up, in public fleet or at a dealership, as a technician or as a manager, it seems like he’s taking a smart first step.

Do you think a technician career is one young people should aspire to?

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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