MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With our winter storm knocking at the doorstep, auto body shops are bracing for a rush in business.
Slippery roads will certainly send them a flurry of fender benders needing repair. But the tight labor market has many shops struggling to find enough qualified technicians, and that can mean some long waits.
This is not your parent’s Buick anymore. Today’s vehicles are extremely complex pieces of engineering. And when they get damaged, it takes a highly-trained technician to get them back out on the road.
At Superior Service Center in Eagan, repair bays are full, fixing engines and straightening dents. For shop owners like Dan Sjolseth, finding enough skilled technicians is a challenge.
“We’re fully staffed, but we could use one more person here coming into the winter months, but we’re fortunate to have that. That’s not the case at many shops,” Sjolseth said. “There are very few shops you’d walk into and they’d say we’re at full capacity. Most everyone is looking for not one technician, a number of technicians.”
That skilled labor shortage can mean delays. Some customers having to wait weeks to get cars in.
“You’d be lucky if you can get into a shop on the next day to get your car repaired, there is such a backlog,” said Steve Reinarts, Dunwoody’s dean of the Automotive Program.
Today’s high-tech vehicles require technicians to match — from filling dents to troubleshooting computers.
“Even the small things like a bumper nowadays have sonar, there’s sensors, nothing is just cut-and-dry easy,” said Brian Briske, a Dunwoody collision instructor.
It is a big reason Dunwoody’s automotive program is in high demand. Each graduate gets eight and a half job offers. Still, trade schools cannot crank them out fast enough.
“In 2020, 2025, It should start slowly upticking, but it’s not going to be a dramatic increase. So it’s going to stay this way for a while,” Reinarts.
So after Friday night’s snowfall, if you have a mishap that needs repair, word to the wise is be patient. It just might take a few weeks to get it looking good as new again.