This is the first of a multi-part series on the evolution of technician training and education.
The Bureau Labor of Statistics reports there will be an estimated 277,400 diesel technicians employed in the United States by 2020, an increase of 35,200 new jobs since 2010.
A sizable portion of those are either enrolled in technical programs nationwide, or roaming the halls of a high school near you.
The advancing age of the current diesel technician workforce, coupled with the advanced design and complexity of the modern engine, has caused a minor labor shortage in independent and dealer facilities nationwide – and it’s pushed increasing numbers of students into the classroom.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in student enrolling in our diesel program during the past five years,” Tina Miller, director of public relations for Universal Technical Institute, says.
Jerry Clemons, program coordinator at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College says his school’s growth has been explosive.
“In the last 10 to 20 years, we’ve grown exponentially,” he says. “When I started in 1999 we had about 15 total diesel students. For the last 2-3 (years), we’ve been running about 100.”
With annual salary expectations for high-performing diesel techs hovering near $60,000, students across multiple age groups have flocked to the bookstore.
Miller says the average age of UTI’s entire student population is in its early 20s, but 33 percent are 21-29 years old; and an additional 14 percent are 30 years and older. The majority of UTI’s diesel students are 20-21 years old, she adds.
Clemons says the average age of enrollees in his program is slightly higher – he estimates between the ages of 25-28 – closer to the traditional student body of a community college.
“We’ve served all walks of life,” he says. “Most of our diesel students are just out of high school, or just out of the military, but (older enrollee) numbers have increased just like the normal 18-25 year old numbers have increased. There has always been certain element coming back for retraining and numbers have gone up as well.”