Need work? Mechanic shortage means jobs in high demand

Nathan Simmons

If you're looking for employment, you might want to look into becoming a mechanic. There's a shortage and the Labor Department predicts it's only going to get worse.

The nation's demand for auto mechanics is expected to have grown about 17% from 2010 to 2020, adding 124,800 jobs for a total of 848,200, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. While mechanics used to grow up tinkering with cars. Today's kids keep busy with computers and video games.

None of the local colleges in Horry County offer automotive training programs. The Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports (PALM) is a public charter high school that opening in October 2010 as a part of the Horry County School District.

"It's hard to even find instructors because they are already making so much. I mean a good body person that's been in business for a while, {they're making} 80 to 100 thousand. You know that was the challenge for the school finding people who were willing to take those salary cuts to even come in here," Principal Shrie Allen says.

There is already competition among auto dealers in many parts of the nation to hire or retain good technicians. The bigger worry is whether there will be enough younger workers in a few years as a wave of mid-career mechanics hits retirement age.

"We're more of a dying breed," says Tony Donovan, who was in the industry for 31 before switching to teaching. "Most schools around here don't have classes like this, so it's good the kids can come here to learn the skills they need."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage is about $36,000 but some top out at $59,000 or more per year depending on skill level and employer. The few auto mechanics that are coming out of trade schools are being snatched up at graduation .

"I think it's good for me. It's a shame more people aren't doing this stuff," student Nathan Simmons says.