WTAJ Originals: Shortage of auto techs locally causing long wait lines

Local News

What would you do if the next time your car breaks down it takes months to fix or worse there’s no one to do the work it needs?

It’s a problem that’s slowly becoming a reality, thanks to a growing auto technician shortage.

Many auto shops depend on students entering the work force to have interest in careers like this.
However, of the 40 students in the Automotive Department here at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, only about half will become auto techs making there a greater local need for the position.


“There’s a lot of kids these days that just don’t want to get their hands dirty, I’ve noticed a lot of them just want to be famous, doing like videoing,” Garrett Johnsonbaugh, Student at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, said.

Garrett is a senior at Bellefonte High.  Thanks to three years of automotive classes at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, he’ll have his state emissions and inspection certification when he graduates in June.  He says he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps and become a mechanic. He likes working with his hands, and the money isn’t bad either.
 
“It’s paying very well right now,” Garrett, said.  “I actually have a job lined up with Firestone and just to start out they’re gonna’ pay me more than what my father makes already.”
 
Garrett’s teacher at CPI, Mark Sipe, says more and more auto techs are retiring and unlike Garrett, it’s hard to get most young people today interested in the career, because cars are constantly changing and getting harder to fix.
 
“We can no longer just figure that anyone can come in and work on a car because of all the electronics and ignition modules and things like that can be actually repaired incorrectly or more damage done,” Sipe said.
 
These techs have to know how to reconstruct a car after an accident and re-work censors, wire harnesses and the safety restraint system. 
 
Sipe has dealerships and local shops asking him for trained techs, all the time, but the number of graduates isn’t matching the openings. Take Karch Auto in State College for instance. 
 
General Manager Shawn Packer  says they’ve been searching candidates for awhile.

 
“The problem now is you used to be able to contact those people and get someone pretty quickly as an intern or to fill a position, now it’s a lot harder,” Shawn Packer, General Manager at Karch Auto, said.  “You contact them, there’s so few of them that everybody’s trying to grab them.”
 
So what’s this mean for the customer?  A lack of techs means a longer wait to get your car fixed, and the timing couldn’t be any worse. This is the peak time of year for auto work because of the weather.
 
“If we could get more techs out there to perform the work on these newer cars we could actually pick up the work level, pick up the pace and we could get people’s cars fixed in a more timely manner,” Sipe said.
 
Packer says he’s asking the Chamber of Commerce to reach out to trade schools and local high schools to educate kids on this career and build up interest.  He’s also making a planning board to do the same thing.

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