The inability to recruit and retain technicians has been at the heart of the technician shortage for years now, but between growing enrollment at trade schools and rising technician pay, among other factors, the industry is making headway on this lingering issue, according to WrenchWay, an organization that connects automotive, diesel, & collision repair technicians with shops. WrenchWay's 2023 Voice of Technician survey found that fewer technicians considered leaving the trade in 2023 (49%) than in 2022 (79%).
Now, this isn’t to say that the technician shortage has been solved. According to the TechForce Foundation’s 2022 Transportation Technician Supply & Demand Report, the diesel industry is still facing a ratio of technician demand to supply of 3.8, with 41,369 spots to fill and only 11,000 technicians to fill them. Not to mention that Zippia reports that the average automotive technician age is 40 years old, and potentially on their way to retirement in the next two decades. But while the industry can't impact the silver tsunami among their workers, they can impact their current employee's job satisfaction.
According to WrenchWay’s Voice of Technician, the most common themes for diesel techs leaving the industry include stress related to pay (24%), the physical and mental demand of the work (24%), poor management (15%), the cost of tools (12%), and a lack of respect (9%).
One anonymous comment on the survey included with the report stated that: “I feel as though the pay scale will never match the amount of effort you have to put in to be a high-level technician. The hours are long and it is hard on the body, and it takes constant learning and growth to stay relevant with all of the new systems that keep coming out.”
Additionally, 36% of diesel technicians said they would not recommend their profession to a friend, and 21% of technicians surveyed strongly disagreed that their shop does a good job teaching new techs and compensating mentors, while another 19% strongly disagreed that shop management communicates well. This shows that the industry still has a long way to go in terms of keeping their techs happy and on the shop floor.
However, WrenchWay’s report did also indicate where the industry needs to put its efforts to retain their techs: Primarily, tool accessibility in relation to pay. While 35% of survey respondents said their motivation to leave the industry revolved around stress related to pay, another 32% reported that “shops need to pay for tools or provide an adequate tool allowance.” A correspondingly large number (82%) stated that proper equipment in the shop is “very important” to them when looking for a job.
Along with wanting shops to pay for tools in some capacity, most technicians also reported that they preferred the hourly pay structure with a production bonus.
With these elements in mind, perhaps the maintenance industry can continue to keep their techs on the floor and continue chipping away at the percentage considering leaving altogether.