One Two Nine Nine…
On a personal level, I think 2022 is going to be the year of R and R: Retirement and Reassessment. Obviously, the first R refers to my wonderful wife’s retirement, which was effective at the close of business on December 31.
I think that 2022 will have to be a year of reassessment for me, a year when I have to decide what interests, what people are really important. It also has to be a year in which I reassess my behavior and my thoughts. Although OCD is hard to overcome, it’s not always impossible.
I guess the start of a new calendar year has some significance. To be honest, though, I have never really considered January 1 as having much importance. For example, during the 20+ years I worked in major league baseball, the opening day of the regular season was really the beginning of the new year, filled with promise and anticipation.
As a person with some “issues,” the structure inherent in a sports season is much needed. I think that’s why I write a post almost every day; writing is an anchor and I mean that in a good way.
This long, but interesting article from Hagerty is titled, “Why is the automotive repair industry in need of so much repair itself?” This passage is quite significant, in my opinion:
“Shop classes at the middle and high school level have been the victims of budget cuts for decades, in part due to the required resource investment. Meanwhile, the prevailing message to students from high school staff has prioritized pursuit of academic-focused four-year colleges degrees over trades. Many industries are attempting to deal with this slow take rate for trade schools by anteing up with offers of generous pay, equipment reimbursement, company-supplied tools and vehicles, and other adjustments designed to attract young talent. Yet these are moves that the automotive industry has, bizarrely, rarely adopted. It’s easy to see how such reforms would directly address the current high-turnover environment, as techs either burn out or constantly hop from one business to another, surfing just long enough for the next job offer. Folks with wisdom, experience, and keen diagnostic instincts eventually seek a landing pad with fleets in government sectors, aircraft maintenance, or sometimes an entirely different trade.
This uneven labor trade-off has driven a shortage of somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 technicians every year, by most estimates. Concerning the shortage over the next five years, estimates ranges wildly on the body count needed: anywhere between 25,000 and 642,000. The result is a recession of reliable, quality shops as service managers scramble to bring enough workers in to meet demand, which has grown substantially during the pandemic. With the valve closing on a supply of newly trained techs, some shops are left with less-than-ideal staff, if they have any at all to hire, further entrenching the troubled state of the industry. A loss of experienced talent in the labor pool results in higher return rates for follow-up work on a job, either due to a workmanship errors or outright misdiagnosis of the issue. Without a well-trained bucket of younger workers feeding into the industry, many shops are unable to hire enough techs to keep up with demand, resulting in long turn-around times and far-out schedule slots for work.”
The brainwashing of young people (and parents) that college is the only route to a successful career has been the ruination of millions. “College for all” is a fool’s errand. In reality, for most students college is an investment with a poor return. In addition, student debt has reached the preposterous level of $1.5 trillion in the US. No, I don’t believe in cancelling student debt unless the foolish government programs that encourage and facilitate people to take on that debt are also cancelled.
Although I had scholarships and grants to cover most of the cost of my undergraduate studies, I did borrow a little money. During a period when the average 30-year fixed mortgage had an interest rate in excess of 10% (sometimes far in excess of 10%), the interest rate on my student loans was about 3%. I paid off my loan ahead of schedule, even though with that interest rate differential my student loan could have been considered an asset. (In my case, the money wasn’t loaned directly to me; it was simply “credited” to my college account with the understanding I would have an obligation to repay those amounts with interest.)
Did I absolutely have to take out student loans? Probably not, but they made paying for college much easier. Not to sound elitist, but since I graduated with honors in less than four years with a double major, no one can make the claim that college was a waste of time for me. I do think, though, that WAY too many young people attend college and WAY too few are learning a trade (or trades). That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
That’s also the major reason, in my opinion, why the automotive repair industry is in shambles. I am genuinely concerned that a time might come when getting my Z06 serviced will be very difficult and very expensive.
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9 thoughts on “R And R”
I can attest to the shortage of automotive techs first hand, While at my dad’s home, I went to move his van (1998 GMC) and saw the red “brake” light was on. Quickly found that the fluid was low. Further checking found a wheel cylinder was leaking. Went to a shop down the road from his place, big sign; NO MECHANIC ON DUTY. Asked the guy there about it, told me his last one left 2 days before. 5 bays, no mechanics, one guy to do tires. Went down the road to another shop and they said it would be 2 days before they could even look at the van. Made an appointment and brought it back. Of the 5 techs there only 1 was under age 40.
From talking with folks I know, one of the issues is the “flat rate” pay for automotive work. If the job takes longer, the tech loses money. And repairs can often take longer as many folks will ignore an issue when it could be repaired quickly, and wait for a near total failure which then takes more time to remedy. But the pay rate is the same.
If you want to see some of the catastrophes that techs often see, there is a Reddit called Just Rolled Into The Shop. Makes you wonder why there aren’t more crashes than there already are.
Thanks, DDM. Very disheartening to read of your experiences, but I suspect you are far from the only one who has felt the effects of the automotive tech shortage.
I have friends who own shops around my area. They don’t lack for customers, only lack of qualified help. And these are not shops that pay flat rate, but very good wages. Even my buddy that’s the manager at the Quick Lube in town often has to close 1 bay due to lack of help.
I guess once we’re all driving “Barbie Jeeps” it won’t matter as much. 😦
Recently I wanted to get my dearly departed Sonata-yay Len Stoler Lexus for a pleasant 360 degree experience selling and buying a car-an oil change at a Hyundai dealership. First place I called: one month…for an oil change. Next place, two weeks. Two days before my appointment, I get a call from the service department; appointment FOR AN OIL CHANGE…CANCELED.
Not only has such classes been eliminated, but I think the local Lincoln Technical Institute is no more. Guys like The Wizard and Scotty on YouTube really make me appreciate good mechanics.
Thanks, Doc. Don’t know what it will take to reverse the shortage, but even if a “Eureka” moment occurs, it will take many years.
You have struck on a sore point with me, as well. I graduated from high school with a great vocational electronics program that was sophisticated enough to get me a job in a TV and Communications repair shop without even going to a trade school.
I eventually went to work in a school system teaching electronics at a high school level and I am proud to know that I’ve prepared students for their choice of either engineering or technical school.
That program was eventually cut due to a lack of student interest. Lots of emphasis on college programs in our high schools decimated all of the trades and we are now living with that shortage of technical career persons.
The irony is that those who do choose a trade instead of college end up with little debt and high starting salaries…
I’ll stop now. I know I’m preaching to the choir. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, JS. We have had this discussion before and I know of your passionate advocacy for trade school education.
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Leaving any politics out of it, Mike Rowe is a vocal advocate (and puts his money where his mouth is * ) supporting young folks going into trades.
Thanks, DDM. I’m a big fan of Mike Rowe and his crusade and donate to his effort on a regular basis.
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