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September 27, 2012 10:01 PM

Mechanic Shortage

Sioux Falls, SD

Most people dread taking their car into the mechanic; it's a hassle and it can be expensive. But the cost and the time you go without your car is going up, thanks to a shortage of mechanics.

Bobby Dkystra is in his final semester of the automotive technology program at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls.  He's already working at his dad's auto repair shop and is practically guaranteed his choice of jobs upon graduation.

"As long as you work hard, I think you'll find a job easily enough," student Bobby Dkystra said.

"Last year we had 30-40 phone calls from dealerships or independents in Sioux Falls looking for part-time or full-time graduates.  We've been really fortunate in placing 95 percent of them, so there is a high demand out there," Southeastern Technical Institute Automotive Technology Instructor Pat Amor said.

There's a waiting list to get into the program at Southeast Tech, which is looking at expanding to help meet the demand.  Repair shop owner Tom Broadbent hopes that happens.

"We've been looking for quite a while for two.  We finally landed one and the one guy we did have that went through the tech program and graduated; he's gone already," Tom Broadbent owner of Airway Services, said.

"I think most shops are able to fill that void. It's just taking them a long time to find those technicians and bring them through a training process to get them up to speed," Amor said.

And that means it will take longer to get your car repaired and you'll pay more for it too.

"We may have to charge more to keep guys. But then saying ‘no,’ I don't want to say 'no' to anybody that calls or put them out more than a week, but I have to," Broadbent said.

Broadbent says sometimes that means he loses business.  He hopes more well-trained mechanics are on the market soon.

"There are upwards of ten, 12, 14 computers on a car. They're spending a lot of time on diagnosis concerns and, let's face it, they have to be sharp," Amor said.

The first year salary for a mechanic runs between $25,000 and $30,000.  After five years that can jump to $50,000 or $60,000.

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