From The CEO - September - 2018

Continuing On… Education Wise

For the past few years, I’ve heard from many of you about the lack of qualified technicians. For some, this isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s become a matter of staying in business.

Like so many issues we face, you may not notice it until it comes knocking at your door. It’s like your water heater: everything’s fine until you notice the garage floor is flooded! The industry is doing just fine until your rebuilder leaves. It’s at that point you realize just how dramatically the market has changed over the past 20 years.

And it’s not just our industry. The entire country has made a shift, pushing more and more people into college as trade skills fall out of fashion. High schools no longer have shop classes, or even Home Economics, for that matter.

It seems as though, somewhere down the line, the idea of working with your hands became taboo. So here we are, 30 years after the college revolution, and we’re finding ourselves, as a country, in dire need of skilled workers. Not just rebuilders, but welders, plumbers, electricians, and all the other skilled trades that we took for granted for so long.

I’m not generally one to look toward government for answers, but there’s something stirring out there that may be worth noticing. Two congressmen — Glenn Thompson (R) from Pennsylvania and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) from Illinois — headed up a program called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act H.R. 2353. It became law on July 31, 2018. Now it’s a matter of what to do with the funding.

I’d generally be the first to reel away from something like this and consider it just a new way to waste money, but there are a few points that gave me pause: First, this industry needs technicians and it may require several approaches to achieve it. If this program can help, then it’s worth looking into.

Other things that caught my attention were that it takes the authority out of Washington and brings it more locally. And finally, it includes industry leaders from companies actually in the field to help work on the curriculum rather than a bunch of pointy-headed professors who draw their experience from the faculty lounge.

Now, you might only switch to C-SPAN if you have trouble sleeping, but they had a really good program where these two congressman shared the highlights of the program (recorded just prior to it becoming law). You can watch it yourself here.

I thought it was worth getting involved, so I decided to write to my Representative. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Representative Brownley,

I’m delighted to see an effort toward advancing the level of skilled training through H.R. 2353. I think our nation, as a whole, has lost sight of the need for skilled trade positions like welders, electricians, plumbers, and yes… automotive technicians.

I’m the CEO for a trade association called ATRA — the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association — representing thousands of businesses who service and repair today’s cars and trucks. Our industry, like so many others, has seen a significant drop in people with technical skills.

I recently watched a program where Representatives Glenn Thompson (R) from Pennsylvania and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) from Illinois presented the highlights of H.R. 2353, which has now become law. I have to tell you it piqued my interest.

As this is a national program, I’m interested in including the automotive repair industry, specifically the transmission rebuilding industry, in the training programs that would benefit so many. I’d also like to offer our association’s assistance in developing a program for this industry as well as participate in any panel discussions where I might be of value.

If you’ve been wondering “What can I do to help the industry I love and has given so much to me?” here’s your chance. Write or call your member of congress and ask him or her to get involved with this program. You can take whatever you’d like from my letter and use it in your own to help us get the support we need for continuing education for this industry.

It’s something we can all get involved in. As we learn more about this program we’ll cover it right here in Gears Magazine as well as Expo. I look forward to speaking with you there. This program is now law. What happens next might just be up to you.