ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Local auto shop owners say mechanics are becoming harder to find, in part due to college training programs becoming less common.
“There is a shortage of technicians, especially good technicians,” said Jim Hein, owner of Tuffy’s Auto Service Center, 6574 E Riverside Boulevard. “Younger people seem like they don’t want to get into the industry anymore.”
Hein says there are plenty of mechanic jobs available, but there’s no workers to fill them.
“It’s unfortunate that more people are not going into the field, but as older technicians are retiring, we’re not able to replace them with younger technicians,” he said.
Automotive programs are getting harder to find at local community colleges, too.
Kishwaukee Community College recently eliminated its auto collision program.
“The school decided to pull the plug and not even try, even after all these curriculum rewrites,” said Greg Brink, the Collision Repair instructor at Kishwakee College. “Students were pretty mad. They were told to go to other schools to finish.”
Some students then turned to a similar program at Highland Community College in Freeport, but on Tuesday, its Board of Trustees could vote to shut the program down.
College leaders say a lack of enrollment is to blame.
“This current generation is not as interested in working with their hands as much as the previous ones were, and many of the high schools have eliminated a lot of these programs,” Brink said.
Hein says he’s disappointed that schools are dropping their auto programs.
“It’s sad. It’s very sad, because in the future, we are going to need these people. We are going to need the technicians. Fixing your car is not something you can outsource to another country,” he said.
Auto body repair isn’t the only program on the chopping block at Highland on Tuesday night: trustees will also vote on whether to eliminate the hospitality management program as well.