Volkswagen wants to help educate and equip tomorrow’s technicians by donating 31 Atlas SUVs and diagnostic equipment to high school auto technician programs, technical schools and career centers across the nation.
“There is a national shortage of technicians, and it’s expected to grow as many technicians are, or are very close to, retirement age,” says Jon Meredith, Volkswagen national service operations manager. “We have to start looking for avenues to backfill these individuals.”
As both hardware and software in vehicles become more complex, trained automotive technicians with such skills are in high demand by many industries. Today, more than 770,000 people work as automotive technicians and mechanics across the country, according to federal government estimates. While the overall number of roles remains steady, federal labor experts and the automotive industry estimate the need for new technicians at tens of thousands of workers per year just to maintain current openings — demand that is greater than what trade schools can currently supply with graduates.
“As an industry, we need to come up with different ways of thinking and doing to attract young people to this industry,” Meredith said.
The Volkswagen ODIS software used to diagnose and update vehicles would normally have to be purchased directly from Volkswagen under the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act and would be out of reach of many programs. The selected schools also will collaborate with local dealerships to provide supplemental assistance and instruction on the donated equipment.
The Atlas SUV is made at the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee. The plant also makes the Passat sedan, and in 2022 will begin manufacturing an electric SUV, which was announced in late 2019. The Chattanooga plant currently employs approximately 3,800 workers, but that will also increase by about 1,000 workers to accommodate adding the electric SUV to the plant’s lineup.