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How the pandemic is changing our career paths

A recent OnePoll survey of Americans between 18 and 35 years old found that more than half (54) have strongly considered changing their careers in the past six months. Another 52% said they would love to have a job where they could work with their hands, and more than 40% said they weren’t currently working in a field related to their degree.

The good news is that there are thousands of stable, high-paying jobs waiting for them in the skilled trades – areas that have proved essential to keeping our nation’s economy running during the worst public health crisis in a century. The commercial trucking industry is one of these essential industries, and the need for qualified technicians and other support personnel to keep commercial trucks on the road has become critical.

In automotive and diesel trucking, we’re seeing this trend play out in real time. The transportation industry has proven to be essential during the COVID-19 pandemic and the technicians who work in this industry are an indispensable workforce. The day-to-day work is becoming more sophisticated, with modern vehicles requiring significant understanding of STEM-based technologies to keep them running properly. Most technicians spend more time with a computer than heavy tools.

As more Americans hit the open road, the need for service technicians is growing, while diesel technicians service the vehicles, truck fleets and machinery that fuel crucial industries, carry essential goods and supplies – including PPE for healthcare workers — and support vital infrastructure. More than 70% of all freight tonnage in the United States is moved on trucks, and all of those trucks need highly trained technicians to service them.

At a time when other industries are being decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has estimated there will be more than 110,000 annual job openings for automotive, diesel and collision repair technicians across the U.S. through 2028. And given the economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people and businesses are going to be keeping their vehicles longer and will need trained technicians to maintain and service those vehicles.

UTI recently interviewed 22 of its industry partners to get an understanding of the employment opportunities for its students, and each partner affirmed there are more jobs open than there are qualified skilled technicians to fill those positions.

Here in Pennsylvania, Coopersburg & Liberty Kenworth hires no less than six to eight diesel technicians a year. Next year, we expect our hiring to expand drastically to meet growing demand. These are good, high-paying careers, and we’re going to rely on organizations like Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Exton to meet our need for highly skilled technicians for years to come.

Times of crisis often inspire change, and this pandemic is no exception. The good news for those looking to pick up a skilled trade is that the automotive and diesel trucking industries will be offering stable, high-paying jobs for those who want them in the years to come.

Robert Kessler is the Campus President of Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Exton, Pennsylvania. Joe Held is the Director of Service for Coopersburg & Liberty Kenworth in Pennsylvania.

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