Universal Technical Institute: 

“Local Job Seekers Urged to Consider Auto Tech”

When looking for careers with promising futures, industry officials are encouraging job-seekers to consider the field of automotive technology.

To address what is being a “skills gap” in the industry, with too few qualified candidates available for the number of technician jobs available, new classes are starting every three weeks at Universal Technical Institute in Lisle, said Ian Hardie, the employment services director. He said recently that the 136 students in the class that began in September is about average.

Depending on schedules and certifications being sought, classes run between a year and 18 months, and gradations are also held every three weeks.

“We’ve been getting calls for more and more entry-level technicians,” he said , one reason why roughly 90 percent of graduates are employed in their field.

Oak Lawn native Sean Virgin, 30, is among those who completed the UTI program, and is 10 years into a successful career as a technician. The 2003 graduate of Oak Lawn Community High School, who now lives in Plainfield, works for Crown Lift Trucks.

Hardie said that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.6 million automotive and diesel technicians in the country now. But by 2020, 40 to 50 percent will need to be replaced, due to attrition.

“Just to keep up with the demand, nationwide, we need to 37,000 new technicians every year,” he said.

“Graduates are more than just parts changers,” said Hardie. “They have to be able to diagnose and fix problems. A lot of the work involves computers now,” he said.

Hardie said UTI is partnering with Ryder to supply that trucking firm with Ryder to supply that trucking firm with qualified technicians, and is investing $12 million in scholarships in order to attract more students.

“Not enough people are looking for jobs in this area. I suppose I never thought I’d be a forklift mechanic (when I was in high school either,)” said Virgin.

In addition to automotive and diesel technician certification, the third main program offered at UTI is a 45-week class to qualify as a transport refrigeration technician.

Virgin said he feels more settled in his career than many of his contemporaries. He noted that many people his own age, who perhaps when to four-year colleges and universities, are still paying off loans and looking for jobs in their fields.

“I’ve paid off my loans and I graduated 10 years ago,” he said.

Hardie noted that while the United States is recovering from the economic downturn that begun in 2008, the automotive repair industry was not as badly affected as most other sectors of the economy.

“Most goods still have to be shipped by truck. There has been a lot of outsourcing of high-tech jobs, sending them out of the country,” said Hardie. “But you can’t outsource a diesel mechanic or technician’s job. The vehicles can’t be sent out of the country to be fixed.”

The Oak Lawn Reporter, “Local Job Seekers Urged to Consider Auto Tech,” October 28, 2015