OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE ALTERNATIVE FUELS & ADVANCED TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES

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1 OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE ALTERNATIVE FUELS & ADVANCED TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES JULY 2014 AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS & MECHANICS INTRODUCTION A number of factors are driving growth in sectors related to alternative fuels and vehicles. These include legislative policies, such as air pollution regulations and state incentives to increase the use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, as well as market factors, such as reducing the United States dependence on foreign oil. Other factors impacting the adoption of alternative fuels and vehicles is environmental awareness on the part of consumers, who may be trying to cut their impact on global warming along with saving money. Meanwhile, new technological innovations continue to drive expansion. Since this area is rapidly evolving, the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) and the California Community Colleges Centers of Excellence set out to conduct a statewide study to examine occupations related to alternative fuels and vehicles. Key findings include projected employment, the skills and education most in demand by employers, and an analysis of community colleges with programs relevant to this area. Quantitative and qualitative employment data were gathered, and focus groups along with a statewide workforce survey of employers were conducted. Research objectives included identifying key occupations, measuring current employment related to alternative fuels and vehicles, and projecting future job growth. The study also sought to identify hiring challenges and the skills most in demand, and analyze how community colleges prepare workers for these fields. 1

2 ABOUT THE OCCUPATION Automotive service technicians and mechanics diagnose, adjust, repair or overhaul cars and light trucks. Workers in this occupation may be referred to by a variety of similar titles, such as automotive technicians, automotive service technicians, and auto mechanics. They are employed by fleets, auto shops and dealerships, and work with a range of vehicle types, such as hybrids, electric or those that run on compressed natural gas or flex fuel (gasoline typically either blended with ethanol or methanol fuel). A number of factors are driving growth for occupations related to alternative fuels and vehicles. For example, the automotive industry as a whole is moving towards a larger share of alternative fuels vehicles in their fleets due to air quality mandates. In addition, because technologies are continuously evolving and the industries are still taking shape, there is demand for automotive service technicians and mechanics that have expertise related to multiple types of alternative fuel vehicles. Newer alternative fuel vehicles may be currently under manufacturers warranty, but employers expect there will be added demand for service and repair of alternative fuel vehicles when those warranties sunset in three to five years. For employers who have fleets, an entry-level trainee position usually exists beneath automotive service technicians and mechanics. These positions are similar to apprenticeships with workers shadowing mechanics and groomed to move up the ranks. Some companies do not have specific job titles for mechanics; instead they have levels (e.g. Tech 1, Tech 2, and Tech 3). Similarly, auto dealer service departments typically have an entry-level position beneath automotive service technicians and mechanics. However, independent auto repair shops usually do not distinguish among positions because they have a need for their mechanics to be able to do everything and work on all vehicles. 2

3 EMPLOYMENT & WAGES The study sought to measure employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics among two different groups of employers: auto shops and dealerships, and fleets. AUTO SHOPS & DEALERSHIPS EMPLOYMENT Of the estimated 43,400 automotive service technicians and mechanics statewide who currently work for auto shops and dealerships, about 38% of them (16,600) work on alternative fuel vehicles. Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to undergo strong growth in this sector, expanding by 17% or about 7,500 new jobs by TABLE 1 EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS FOR AUTO SHOPS & DEALERSHIPS IN CALIFORNIA. OCCUPATION 2014 JOBS 2015 JOBS CHANGE % CHANGE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS VACATED POSITIONS IN LAST 12 MOS. 43,400 50,900 7,500 17% 7,300 FLEET EMPLOYMENT There are approximately 4,000 automotive service technicians and mechanics employed by fleets in California, and 60% of them (2,400) work on alternative fuel vehicles. The sector is expected to add about 100 automotive service technician and mechanic positions over the next year, 3% growth. TABLE 2 EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS FOR FLEETS IN CALIFORNIA. OCCUPATION 2014 JOBS 2015 JOBS CHANGE % CHANGE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS VACATED POSITIONS IN LAST 12 MOS. 4,000 4, % 600 WAGES Earnings vary widely by individual, employer and occupation. Reviewing a wage range is advisable. As shown below, the 25th percentile wage may resemble more entry-level earnings while the median and 75th percentile wages might reflect those paid to a more experienced worker. 3

4 TABLE 3 EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS FOR AUTO SHOPS & DEALERSHIPS IN CALIFORNIA. 1 AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS (Includes Automotive Master Mechanics) HOURLY WAGE ANNUAL WAGE 25TH PERCENTILE $13.12 $27,291 MEDIAN (50TH PERCENTILE) $17.28 $35,947 75TH PERCENTILE $22.82 $47,456 Source: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI), 2014 EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS Employers were asked about the level of education they are looking for when hiring automotive service technicians and mechanics. Nearly half of survey respondents (49%) stated a preference for a high school diploma while 21% require some college. In the other category, responses included automotive technical school (such as UTI or WyoTech), industry certifications (such as ASE and Chrysler), and labor union training. TABLE 4 MINIMUM EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS. OCCUPATION NONE H.S. SOME COLLEGE ASSOCIATE DEGREE BACHELOR S DEGREE OTHER* DON T KNOW AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS (N=232) 11% 49% 21% 2% - 16% 1% ON THE JOB TRAINING On-the-job training is common for auto service technician and mechanics positions. For example, dealerships usually provide a specialized training program for new hires. Manufacturers may provide online or in-person courses at factory training centers. Some companies send their workers to community colleges to update their training and/or certifications. Other workers update their skills through vehicle manufacturers/original equipment manufacturers and courses offered through parts stores, part distributors and manufacturers. We like to hire young mechanics and train them to move up the ladder. We save money by teaching our mechanics about all of our vehicles and equipment on the job. Focus Group Participant 1 Wage data that reflects just the earnings of automotive service technicians/mechanics is not available; however, data is available for the combined occupational group of automotive service technicians and mechanics and automotive master mechanics. 4

5 CERTIFICATIONS IN DEMAND According to the California Employment Development Department, no certification requirements currently exist for automotive service technicians and mechanics. However, alternative fuel-related voluntary certifications include Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Alternate Fuels Technician (Light Vehicle Compressed Natural Gas Technician) certification, CSA Standards CNG Fuel System Inspector certification, and the Electric Vehicle Technician (EVT) certification offered by the Electronics Technicians Association. Half of the employers surveyed for the study said they require ASE Certifications for the automotive service technicians and mechanics they hire. More than one-third of employers said manufacturer certifications are necessary for employment. TABLE 5 PERCENTAGE OF RESPONDENTS INDICATING WHETHER CERTIFICATION IS NECESSARY FOR EMPLOYMENT (MULTIPLE RESPONSES WERE ALLOWED) OCCUPATION AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE EXCEL- LENCE (ASE) CERTIFICATIONS MANUFACTURER CERTIFICATIONS OTHER AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS (N=232) 50% 35% 33% Employers who participated in focus groups offered these insights into certifications: ASE Certifications may be required if a candidate does not have a two-year Associate degree in automotive technology. Valued certifications include smog certification, diesel certification and natural gas tank inspection certification. MINIMUM WORK EXPERIENCE There is very low attrition among automotive service technicians and mechanics for fleets, dealerships and auto shops. The majority of companies hire workers into entry-level positions and train them to move up the ladder. Some employers hire automotive service technicians and mechanics with four or more years of experience (43% of respondents). If an applicant does not have work experience, then a degree or certificate from a community college or private educational institution such as Universal Technical Institute (UTI) or WyoTech is an asset. FIGURE 1 - MINIMUM WORK EXPERIENCE NECESSARY AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS 15% 12% 30% 43% NO WORK EXPERIENCE 1 TO 3 YEARS OF RELATED EXPERIENCE LESS THAN 12 MONTHS OF RELATED EXPERIENCE 4 OR MORE YEARS OF RELATED EXPERIENCE 5

6 HIRING PRACTICES LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY FINDING WORKERS Nearly all employers surveyed for the study experience some level of difficulty in hiring automotive service technicians and mechanics. Additionally, in focus groups, dealerships and auto shops expressed having difficulty, while fleet representatives said it was relatively easy to find qualified applicants due to the recession. The dealership and auto shop representatives said they have many applicants for jobs, but consider few qualified because they lack fundamental automotive and diagnostic skills as well as soft skills, such as communication and self-motivation. We d like to see applicants with better communication skills. In some cases, mechanics with alternative fuel skills have to talk with customers to go over the servicing of a particular model. Automotive Service Department Manager FIGURE 2 - DIFFICULTY HIRING AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS 16% 53% 31% NO DIFFICULTY SOME DIFFICULTY GREAT DIFFICULTY Survey results indicate that when it comes to recruiting automotive service technicians and mechanics, 69% of employers promote from within, while 54% advertise online and 33% recruit from apprenticeship programs. Nearly one quarter also recruit from competitors. 6

7 FIGURE 3 - EMPLOYER HIRING PRACTICES FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS (MULTIPLE RESPONSES WERE ALLOWED) 69% 54% 33% 23% 19% PROMOTE FROM WITHIN ADVERTISE ONLINE RECRUIT FROM COMPETITOR RECRUIT FROM APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM RECRUIT FROM TRADE ASSOCIATION OTHER: 7% NONE: 9% SKILLS IN DEMAND The study aimed to identify specific skills that automotive service technicians and mechanics need for each type of alternative fuel vehicle: flex fuel, natural gas, hybrid electric and all electric. Employers said an understanding of safety aspects was very important for automotive service technicians/mechanics that work on alternative fuel vehicles. The majority of employers also ranked the following skill and knowledge areas as very important. For flex fuel vehicles, diagnosing engine problems and knowledge of fuel injection systems were considered very important. For natural gas vehicles, ability to diagnose engine management systems and knowledge of inspection requirements were ranked as very important. For hybrid electric vehicles, knowledge of repair protocol and ability to use diagnostic equipment were identified as very important. For all electric vehicles, knowledge of repair protocol, ability to utilize special diagnostic equipment, and knowledge of integration of high voltage power supplies were ranked as very important. A highly desirable skill in prospective mechanics is computer diagnostics. Focus Group Participant 7

8 TABLE 6 - SKILLS IN DEMAND FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS CLUSTER AND SKILL VERY SOMEWHAT NOT DON T KNOW FLEX FUELS (N=64) DIAGNOSE ENGINE PROBLEMS 52% 29% 12% 7% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF FUEL STORAGE AND DELIVERY COMPONENTS 47% 33% 15% 4% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF FLEX-FUEL PROPERTIES FOR OPTIMAL VEHICLE PERFORMANCE KNOWLEDGE FUEL INJECTION SYSTEMS, EMISSION REGULATIONS AND DIESEL EMISSION CONTROL SYSTEMS 44% 32% 19% 5% 1% 53% 29% 12% 4% 2% NATURAL GAS (N=90) DIAGNOSE ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM PROBLEMS 59% 27% 4% 9% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF INSPECTION REQUIRE- MENTS, TESTS AND PROCEDURES 59% 29% 6% 4% 2% KNOWLEDGE OF TYPES OF CONTAINERS USED FOR CNG 56% 32% 4% 6% 2% UNDERSTANDING OF SAFETY ASPECTS 78% 16% 2% 3% 1% HYBRID ELECTRIC (N=205) DIAGNOSE ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS 55% 28% 13% 3% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF SPECIALIZED ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS 55% 27% 15% 3% 1% UNDERSTANDING OF SAFETY ASPECTS 77% 17% 5% 0% 0% KNOWLEDGE OF REPAIR PROTOCOL 60% 28% 8% 2% 1% ABILITY TO UTILIZE SPECIAL DIAGNOSTIC EQUIPMENT 59% 26% 9% 4% 1% UNDERSTANDING OF REGENERATIVE BRAK- ING SYSTEMS 52% 28% 16% 3% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF INTEGRATION OF HIGH VOLTAGE POWER SUPPLIES 58% 27% 11% 3% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF PHEV BATTERIES 49% 23% 21% 5% 2% KNOWLEDGE OF AC ELECTRIC MOTORS 46% 28% 20% 4% 1% 8

9 TABLE 6 - SKILLS IN DEMAND FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICS (CONT.) CLUSTER AND SKILL VERY SOMEWHAT NOT DON T KNOW ALL ELECTRIC (N=88) DIAGNOSE ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS 59% 27% 6% 8% 0% KNOWLEDGE OF SPECIALIZED ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS 59% 23% 13% 6% 0% UNDERSTANDING OF SAFETY ASPECTS 78% 15% 5% 2% 0% KNOWLEDGE OF REPAIR PROTOCOL 70% 26% 7% 3% 0% ABILITY TO UTILIZE SPECIAL DIAGNOSTIC EQUIPMENT 65% 23% 3% 8% 1% UNDERSTANDING OF REGENERATIVE BRAK- ING SYSTEMS 55% 26% 15% 3% 1% KNOWLEDGE OF INTEGRATION OF HIGH VOLTAGE POWER SUPPLIES 62% 25% 10% 3% 0% KNOWLEDGE OF BATTERY TECHNOLOGIES 57% 30% 8% 6% 0% KNOWLEDGE OF AC ELECTRIC MOTORS 57% 27% 10% 6% 0% OTHER SKILLS IDENTIFIED BY EMPLOYERS Employers who participated in the study noted that there is a growing need for training. Some have had automotive service technicians and mechanics on their staff for many years that do not yet have the skills to work on alternative fuel vehicles. Employers also noted that training is becoming more expensive and time consuming. Training is expensive and time-consuming as it requires a lot of down-time for mechanics. Focus Group Participant 9

10 They recommend community colleges focus on the following areas: Fundamental automotive mechanical skills Safety training Computer diagnostics training for alternative fuel vehicles Review of the latest compliance issues, government regulations and air quality mandates relating to alternative fuel vehicles Instilling broad knowledge and experience working on all types of vehicles Communication skills, appearance, attention to detail and customer service skills TRAINING PROGRAMS There is strong evidence that the capacity for training workers for the alternative fuel vehicle and advanced transportation sector is expanding throughout California. Related training programs already exist at 68 California Community Colleges and two for-profit technical institutes. The pipeline from automotive programs in secondary schools (K-12) to community colleges appears strong, yet only a fraction of programs have formal articulation agreements with postsecondary institutions. Training program highlights include: 10 Alternative fuels programs are still a small subset of offerings within general automotive programs at California Community Colleges (Colleges). Of the 68 Colleges with general automotive technology programs, eight include approved programs with an alternative fuels focus. Both general automotive technology and alternative fuels technology programs have been growing in number, even as overall statewide enrollment at community colleges has decreased. Between and , general automotive technology program awards (degrees and certificates) nearly doubled, increasing from 1,420 to 2,558. In the same time period, alternative fuels awards increased from one to 70. In addition to the eight colleges that offer alternative fuels programs, another 25 colleges offer alternative fuels coursework even though they do not have an official approved Chancellor s Office alternative fuel program. This finding indicates that a large number of colleges might be poised to expand their programs to offer specific alternative fuels degrees and certificates. There are 29 Colleges with automotive technology programs that have formal pathways and articulation agreements with 134 high schools, unified school districts, and Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCP) throughout the state. However, there is evidence that many more informal relationships exist. In California, for the school year , WyoTech and Universal Technical Institute (UTI) awarded 3,521 degrees and certificates in the general automotive field.

11 IN SUMMARY Employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics has a promising outlook. Regarding employment by auto shops and dealerships, automotive service technicians/mechanics are expected to undergo the greatest job expansion, increasing by 17% and adding 7,500 jobs. In addition, a majority of employers who participated in the study expect that a growing percentage of their business will be devoted to alternative fuel vehicles in the next three to five years, potentially accelerating the need for automotive service technicians and mechanics who are trained to work on all types of alternative fuel vehicles. There are opportunities for community colleges to fill a gap regarding certifications, particularly for Diesel/ Verified Diesel Emission Control, CNG/Tank Inspection and Smog Inspection. Based on responses from employers, safety, repair protocols and diagnostic skills for all types of alternative fuel vehicles ranked high as necessary skills for automotive service technicians/mechanics. It is recommended that community colleges tailor programs to meet employer demand for these skill sets. 11

12 SOURCES Data sources used for the study include the California Community Colleges Chancellor s Office Datamart, the COE Employer Survey 2014, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMSI). ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This occupational profile is one in a series of workforce reports on alternative fuels and advanced transportation in California; funding for the series was provided by the Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology Program of the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission). The series was produced by the California Community Colleges Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research. Read more at 12

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