Want a lucrative, high-tech career that’s always in demand, totally outsource-proof, and doesn’t require you to march off to traditional college with everyone else in your class? Take a look at an industry right in your own backyard: transportation technology and repair.
The transportation industry has been a big part of the tech boom and boasts an epic range of career options perfect for those obsessed with puzzles, technology, and working with their hands.
And these jobs are available for the taking with as little as two years of education after high school. Many similar jobs in high-tech fields require you to sit in classrooms for up to eight years. But tech school programs can provide a more direct path to great jobs, and you’ll end up with less debt than your friends who graduate from four-year colleges.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees the upside of tech school and the career opportunities it provides—some people are stuck in old, stereotypical ways of seeing the world. But these jobs that cause them to turn up their noses actually pay competitively and are in huge demand; our country is in the midst of a massive shortage of qualified technicians.
The Industry Needs You!
You’ve got mad skills for this work, and those skills will be in high demand over the next decade; the transportation industry will need an average of 76,000 mechanics each year until at least 2026. This breaks down to 46,000 new positions each year plus openings for existing jobs as current workers retire or pursue other lines of work.
So how do you know if this business is right for you? Read on to see what your roadmap could be from middle school to high school and beyond.
You’ve always been a curious puzzle solver. From sixth, seventh, eighth grade, or even earlier, you’ve been the one who tinkers, who likes to get your hands on things. You don’t just ride your bike; you also love to fix it when a wheel wobbles or a gear sticks.
Don’t hide these natural talents under a rock. Practice them, whether on the playground, over homework, or during after-school activities. Pursue these interests as far as you can, whether they lead to a lifelong hobby or a successful career.
There are plenty of opportunities out there to spread your wings—every year in the U.S., there are more than a quarter million local events centered around cars, motorcycles, boats, planes, racing, and a host of additional transportation topics. Transportation technology is also on full display in Soap Box Derby challenges and as a merit badge in both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Next stop, high school!
"I've always been a hands-on person. Since I can remember, I've always taken things apart and tried to figure out how they work."
- Pedro, FutureTech Student
Do you find yourself wandering the halls until you end up in the metal shop? Are you the reliable carpenter for the drama club’s sets? Do your friends come to you when their locker jams, phone freezes, or zipper sticks?
If so, it’s time to let that tinkering blossom into top-notch, career-ready technical skills. There are nearly 300,000 ASE-certified auto tech professionals nationwide, with specialties in a wide variety of disciplines. What might currently be just a hobby can open you up to a world of job possibilities.
This career path can also be a great option if you have ADHD or dyslexia. Hands-on learning with strong visual and tactile components may be more stimulating and satisfying than traditional classroom learning.
Some high school counselors will be in your corner on this, but many work under the familiar misconception that a four-year college or university is the only path to success, despite the fact that 30 percent of U.S. college students drop out during or after their first year. Internships and part-time jobs provide valuable work experience, and you may meet positive role models, mentors, and others who will provide good references for your future job search.
There are many ways to expand your horizons. SkillsUSA is a valuable resource—more than 345,000 students and advisors join every year, and many participate in annual after-school auto/diesel training and competitions. Organizations such as FFA.org and Explorers.org offer national career exploration programs in hundreds of communities both in-person and online.
After high school, it’s time for post-secondary school!
With high school in the rearview mirror, specialized training and work experience go hand in hand. So where do you begin? Start with an ASE-accredited, post-secondary technical training program. Strive for as many ASE or I-CAR certifications as possible. Advanced certifications and degrees can significantly boost your annual income.
Outside of school, make sure to sign up for competitions and events at the local. state, regional, and national levels. These are great opportunities to build skills and to network. That last point is key—employers are seven times more likely to bring on a new hire whom they've previously met in the workplace or heard of through a referral. All it takes is a positive recommendation from one person to jump-start a career.
Waiting to start school? Tap back into those apprenticeships, internships, or other part-time work. Already started school? Be sure to take full advantage of its career services/placement team. The people who work in these areas are usually well connected in the industry and can facilitate valuable conversations with potential mentors or employers. Don’t wait until after graduation to take interviews—many students find their future employer while still in school.
Further Professional Training
Beyond the classroom, manufacturers and service organizations such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence are attempting to address the skills shortage with some exciting partnerships. The Lincoln Technical Institute—a national technical school that teaches automotive technology, applied health sciences, and HVAC repair—works with some great car companies, including BMW, Audi, and Fiat Chrysler. The Audi apprenticeship in particular has been known to place recent graduates directly within their parent company, VW Group.
"I purchased my first house when I was 23, so yes, you can make a good lifestyle. If you work hard and dedicate yourself to it, you can move up fairly quickly and make as much money as you'd like to make--you get out what you put into it."
- Enrique, Nissan Master Tech
TechForce Can Help
Keep your professional skills up to date with the latest tech and trends, stay positive and focused, and, most importantly, never give up the search for a career that excites and challenges you every day.
TechForce can help. We are the single largest resource for future techs looking to find scholarships and grant funding. Our FutureTech Roadmap and “Get Hands On” video resources can provide a helpful summary of facts, figures, and testimonials about the automotive tech landscape.
Here is a video with some of the many reasons why people choose to be a tech!