Automotive repair undergoes transition

Shannon Driscoll, 28, is the tomboy type, so it’s ironic that her job title is “cosmetic associate.”

No lipstick is included. He’s a “cosmetic ally”, as in beautifying messy cars.

“I mainly do bodywork — removal and installation, paintwork, bodywork, removing and installing the hood, doors, headlights, taillights,” Driscoll said. Technician, a nod to increasing automotive computerization.

“I’ve taken the entire front end of a vehicle where it was just showing the engine,” he claimed.

» Read More: As Auto Repair Gets High-Tech, Top Technicians Can Earn Over $100K

Driscoll was moving into nursing – a profession that the US Department of Labor estimates will grow by 7% by 2029, adding about 3.1 million jobs. On the contrary, the forecast for mechanics is the opposite – a drop of 4% and a drop of 27,800 positions.

Nursing pays better with $75,000 in annual salaries, compared to $44,050 for technicians.

Still, for Driscoll, the future of work is in the automotive.

Why did he spin?

“I was semi-interested in nursing, but not fully interested,” said Driscoll, who lives in Northeast Philadelphia with her husband, Matthew Zukalski. Everyone was pushing her into nursing—the pay, growth, job stability—so she enrolled in Philadelphia’s Community College of Nursing program.

When Driscoll, working in a supermarket, learned she had to go to school full time, nursing became a nonstarter. A homeless childhood did not prepare her to face financial insecurity, so she was reluctant to stop working for any reason, including going to school full time. To that, add a general warning of bodily fluids. “I’m not being sarcastic, but I wasn’t sure how I’d react. Having someone else’s life in my hands—it seems like an extremely stressful job,” she said.

“College is a scary thing. It’s debt, and you can’t work,” she said. When she discovered CCP’s automotive technology program, she enrolled on the spot because she could work in school.

Besides, it was the cars. enough said.

“I really love my cars,” she said. “I had my childhood moments when I was a little girl, but I always thought that boy stuff was cool. I started playing with radio-control cars. I loved cars—which The way they look, the way they sound.”

Soon after earning her associate’s degree in Applied Science in Automotive from CCP, she started working at the online car dealership Carvana in September 2018.

“They prepared me for the industry,” she said. She loves her job, admires Carvana’s innovative approach, and now earns $19.76 per hour after several pay increases. Eventually, she hopes to get into management.

How Driscoll’s pivot will play out for auto mechanics is unknown, especially with the renewed emphasis on electric vehicles.

Earlier this month, after driving the hybrid Jeep Wrangler 4XE on the White House lawn, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for half of new passenger car sales to be electric vehicles by the end of the decade.

The US Department of Labor believes that increasing computerization in cars will require fewer technicians. Diagnostics would be easier, making repair easier, so fewer people would be needed. It is a long sight, but what is happening on the ground is not.

“Almost every dealer I know has an opening to a technology at some stage,” said Mary Lynn Alvarino, director of operations at the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia. Their group represents 180 dealerships in the area, employing 17,000 people.

The scarcity is so prevalent, she said, “If someone introduces himself to a dealership, and says, ‘I have no professional training, but I’m interested in cars,’ they say, ‘Let’s sit down and Talk, and we’d love to have you onboard.'”

Alvarino accuses the lack of parents pushing their children to college-based careers. That said, there has been a general lack of funding for vocational/technical programs at the secondary school level. Also, due to increasing technology, automotive technicians are required to have better math and science skills, eliminating a whole class of students who flock to the field to escape the classroom.

There is a misconception that the work is messy and physically demanding, Alvarino said, but those conditions have been eased.

Meanwhile, compounding the shortage, older mechanics are retiring, some due to age, and others who are unwilling or unable to adapt to the technology, Alvarino said. COVID-19 has accelerated this trend.

Salary has also been an issue, she said. Top mechanics can make a decent living, but getting the job done fast takes time and drive. Mechanics get paid by the job, reward efficiency and punish slow workers. Entry-level pay ranges from $13 to $15 an hour, she said. And, Alvarino said, technicians at the top of their game can earn $100,000 per year.

As for technology, it’s true, Alvarino said, that computers in cars have made diagnosis easier. But “even though computers can help, it’s not as straightforward as you think. NS [computer] The diagnosis gives you a good trail of bread crumbs to follow,” she said, but one signal from the computer often leads to another problem, and then to another. “It’s not telling you what the problem is, but You still need to know how to fix it.”

This is Driscoll’s view as well, and explains why she was willing to bet on Automotive.

“A computer can’t control wear and tear on different parts. It can’t control suspension, tires, brakes,” she said. For electric cars, “I think that’s where the world is going, but [electric cars] There are many issues. You still need people to work on them. Even when cars fly, cars can’t repair themselves.

“Maybe they replace all of us with robots, but there are sounds that cars make that you need to be able to hear,” she said. “You will always need human contact.”

Driscoll’s instructor, Richard Saxton, assistant professor of automotive technology and head of CCP’s Department of Transportation Technology, couldn’t agree more. Such is the case with his boss, Pam Carter, the dean of the college’s business and technology division.

That’s why CCP Automotive is set to bet on, as well, $33.5 million to build its new 77,000-square-foot Career and Advanced Technology Center next to the college’s West Philadelphia campus at 48th and Market Streets. is investing. The current facility has four automotive bays; The new one, set to open next year, will be 14.

Carter said the new features have been designed on the advice of industry partners, who are suggesting equipment and curriculum. Students can begin working for CCP’s automotive partners as they study, earning $17 to $22 an hour upon graduation.

CCP is developing an automotive technician registered apprenticeship, as well as creating programs focused on medium to heavy trucks and alternative fuels. Half of the building will be dedicated to related areas such as advanced manufacturing.

Those who think that automotive technicians will be phased out, Carter said, are underestimating the flexibility of education in response to demand. “Our education is changing because the field is changing.”

The Future of Work is produced with support from the William Penn Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Editorial content is created independently of the donors of the project.

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