Automotive Technicians in High Demand at General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Toyota

Thomas Shaw

100% Job Placement, $16.50/hr Starting Pay in Community College Auto Tech Programs

Parents, guidance counselors and other influencers need to understand how great the opportunity is for students with an interest in technology. In all 50 states, the demand for trained, professional automotive technicians has never been higher. “With the cost of college the way it is, the idea of enrolling in college is daunting,” says FCA’s John Fox, in an interview with Craig Fitzgerald of,  “The value equation relative to a career in automotive technical training combined with the earning potential is hard to beat.”

Manufacturer supported programs include:

BMW STEP Program: 

GM ASEP Program:  

Ford ASSET Program:  

MOPAR CAP Program:  

Toyota T-TEN Program: 

Mercedes-Benz’s Automotive Systems Technical Program:  

Mercedes-Benz Mechatronics Program: 

Automotive service technicians are highly specialized, well-trained professionals, a respectable starting salary, with starting hourly pay up to $16.50/hour, and the potential to make a six-figure income in short order.

Why is there such a huge demand? FCA’s Director of Dealer Training John Fox made it clear: “We’re going to be short about 5,000 technicians in our dealerships between now and 2018, and I’m not sure that number isn’t light,” Fox said. “Most dealers could hire two additional techs today and have plenty of work for them to do.”  And that’s just FCA’s Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, Jeep and Fiat stores. What’s the root of the shortage? It’s a perfect storm: Service technicians who have been in the business for decades are retiring. Now combine that with the virtual disappearance of hands-on technical education at the high school level, and then cap it with a relentless stream of messages to high school students that the only way to success is to get a four-year degree from a traditional college.

Typical auto technology programs at the community college level teach a solid background of automotive maintenance and repair. Programs provide technical education in:

Maintenance and Light Repair

Electrical/Electronic Systems

Engine Repair

Manual Drivetrain and Axles


Suspension and Steering

Engine Performance

Automatic Transmission/Transaxle

Heating and Air Conditioning

Programs in all 50 states are accredited by the ASE’s National Automotive Technician’s Education Foundation (NATEF) and give students the basic skills they need to maintain automobiles regardless of brand. Where states differ is the availability of OEM support. For example, MassBay has students coming from all over New England because of the rich OEM support there. Nick Pavloski points out that if students come from a neighboring state that doesn’t offer the OEM support that they’re looking for, MassBay will enroll those students with in-state tuition, rather than charging out-of-state tuition rates. 

MassBay has four shops that focus on manufacturers that provide support for the programs: Toyota T-TEN, MOPAR CAP, GM ASEP and a BMW-specific program that offers similar credentials to the BMW STEP program. Students can either select a certificate program, or work toward an associate’s degree at Mass Bay. According to Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Santiago, the bonus for community college students is that all of those credit hours are transferable to other state universities, allowing students to make a choice about continuing their education even further.

John Fox — Director of the FCA Performance Institute, which includes the MOPAR CAP program that trains service technicians — stresses the importance of OEM involvement in these programs. “We’ve experienced 70 months of year-over-year sales growth in our dealerships,” he says. “Those added vehicles in service means that our service tech infrastructure at the dealerships has to grow.” 

Fox says that the relationship between dealerships and community colleges is all about keeping it local. “Most students going to community colleges are going to work within an hour of where they went to school. They’re typically not going three or four hours, or three or four states away. The key is that relationship between the schools and the dealers,” he says.

Rick Jackson — GM’s Global Technology Training Manager — puts GM’s need for new automotive technicians at the retail level at 2,500 new techs per year, and the need for service on GM’s cars is greater than ever. “Every car we sell has a maintenance program tied to it,” he says, meaning that customers are visiting the dealerships for every included service, rather than looking to independent service shops, at least until the maintenance program expires.

In the last year, General Motors’ ASEP program has donated 350 vehicles to 56 community colleges across the country. Students in the program are sponsored by local dealers that offer guaranteed placement after they finish the program. “As an example, a student will learn about brakes on a GM vehicle in the classroom and in the shop,” Jackson says, “and then she’ll be mentored by a master technician in the dealership, applying that knowledge with expert supervision.”

Manufacturers representing about 70 percent of all the vehicles sold in the United States have similar programs in every state in the country. Ford ASSET, Toyota T-Ten, Honda PACT and BMW STEP all train community college automotive tech students in the basics of auto repair, and then move them quickly into specific repair on the vehicles that those brands sell. 

It’s not that way in Germany, according to Steve Colburn, who coordinates organizational development and technical programs in Human Resources at Mercedes-Benz US International in Alabama. “In 2012, Markus Shaefer was our president,” he says. “He was from Germany and he wanted Mercedes-Benz in the United States to promote the same kind of technical education students were receiving in Germany. There, it’s highly thought of to enter into a technical training program.”

Colburn went to Bremen and Stuttgart to review Mercedes-Benz student training programs there, and came away with a fresh understanding of what an automotive technician does. He says the biggest challenge is changing the perceptions of students, their parents and guidance counselors at the high school level, who have all stigmatized automotive service technicians as grease monkeys. “Technicians on modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles spend much of their time on computers,” he says. “They need to know about schematics and control units, wiring, CAN-BUS and FlexRay. They’re almost engineers.”

Mercedes-Benz in Alabama and BMW in South Carolina both offer two-year programs that graduate students groomed for skilled, high-paying jobs in at some of the world’s most advanced factories.  

“We get about 700 applicants per year,” says Mercedes-Benz’s Steve Colburn. “About 220 applicants end up going through the entire selection process, which includes assessments and interviews at Mercedes-Benz International. Mondays and Wednesdays, students spend time in the classroom, and Tuesdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays, they work in the plant.”

Students in Mercedes-Benz’s Automotive Systems Technical Program at Shelton State Community College get paid as they learn, at a rate of $14.50 per hour. Students work those school hours, but also have the opportunity to take on more hours during semester breaks.

The program runs for six terms and students attend classes Monday thru Wednesday and work at the plant on Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday. Beginning in the Fall of 2016, students can earn an Associate’s Degree.

Mercedes-Benz also runs the Mercedes-Benz Industrial Mechatronics program, which is a seven term program where students earn an Associate’s Degree in Industrial Electronics and a short certificate in Industrial Maintenance.

On top of the pay, Mercedes-Benz US International provides tuition support. In the first term, MBUSI contributes 70 percent of a student’s tuition provided they achieve a 3.0 GPA. That support bumps up to 80 percent in terms two and three, and 100 percent in terms four through seven, provided students maintain a 3.0 GPA.

Upon successful completion of the program, the top 75 percent of students are guaranteed a job — with full benefits including health insurance, including a retirement savings program — at Mercedes-Benz USI’s state of the art facility in Alabama.

In South Carolina, the BMW Scholars Program offers a similar path to a solid career through Tri-County Technical College, Spartanburg Community College and Greenville Technical College.

Students attend the colleges full-time, while working part time at BMW’s Spartanburg facility. Students enrolled in production technician, maintenance, automotive, machine tool, robotics, or other manufacturing-related degree programs receive tuition assistance and a minimum of 20 hours of work at the factory while they learn. With a 2.8 GPA, students get tuition assistance from BMW.





Contact Technical Education Publishing to set up a program for your school. 

Much of this article was published in by Craig FItzgerald.

Auto Tech Jobs in Demand