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Auto Technician Shortage Leads To New Partnership For Ranken, Enterprise

Enterprise Holdings and Ranken Technical College are partnering to attract more people to auto technician careers. Industry experts predict tens of thousands of jobs will need to be filled, with many paying upward of $100,000 a year.

The Automotive Collision Engineering Pilot Program is designed to help rectify a perception problem with the auto tech career field, said Mary Mahoney, a vice president in Enterprise’s Insurance Replacement Division.

“It’s just not attracting younger folks or anyone to it at this point,” she said, while adding that influencers like parents and school counselors might not be aware that it can be a well-paying job with many career options.

“The positions themselves have opportunities to grow from not just a collision engineer, but upward into the management of these businesses as well,” Mahoney said.

The nonprofit TechForce Foundation, which focuses on developing qualified technicians, estimated that nearly 80,000 new positions will need to be filled by 2024. Many workers are retiring, and not enough young people are entering the industry.

The new program is trying to address that along with the perception and awareness problems through a digital advertising campaign.

Three other colleges have signed on to be part of the pilot initiative: Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California; Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas; and the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Texas.

All will be using an apprenticeship model developed at Ranken, allowing students to work with industry experts while earning an associate degree.

“Unlike traditional classroom-based models, our program introduces students to the industry early on,” said Ranken Technical College’s John Helterbrand. He’s the National Automotive Collision Engineering Program director and Automotive Collision Repair department chair at Ranken.

It’s an obvious area of involvement for Enterprise.

“We repair upwards of — I would say — a million cars a year,” Mahoney said.

All of that work is outsourced to collision repair shops wherever Enterprise does business.

Mahoney said that helps local economies and emphasizes why the company is now involved in addressing the shortage of collision technicians.

And getting the word out is essential.

“We can have these tremendous curriculums in these schools and apprenticeship programs, but if nobody is aware of the opportunity then it’s all for naught,” Mahoney said.

The Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation is covering the cost of the first two years of the program. It’s also funding the digital advertising campaign to raise awareness about collision technician careers.

The foundation is not announcing how much it is pumping into the effort but in an email describes it as "a large financial commitment."

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.