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Viewpoint: Tesla’s Answer To The Technician Shortage

The requirements for the START program are high. A candidate should already have an automotive associate degree or post-secondary education, or relevant work experience. The program also specifies that the candidate should have a strong electrical background.

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Recently, I came across a web page with open positions for Tesla technicians. Most of these positions are for techs to perform basic repair and swap parts at dealerships and in the field. The qualifications were very basic for a dealership technician. It felt as though they were not looking for technicians to diagnose electric cars.

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Then, I came across a position for the Tesla Student Automotive Technician Program (START). It took some research to realize Tesla is willing to pay someone for 12 weeks of learning at a trade school to become a Tesla Mobile technician. Students receive $9.50 an hour just to learn. This is a completely different business model from the OEMs that require prospective technicians to pay for their own training. For some of these programs, a technician may leave school being $40,000 in debt.

The requirements for the START program are high. A candidate should already have an automotive associate degree or post-secondary education, or relevant work experience. The program also specifies that the candidate should have a strong electrical background.

If you do make it through the program, Tesla claims you will have a job. But, some unique conditions must be met. First, you must take a position with Tesla and remain there for at least two years. Second, you must be willing to relocate.

According to Glassdoor.com, Tesla pays technicians an average salary (not flat rate) of $53,000 a year or about $23/hour. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like Tesla is making a lot of demands for not enough money. For some techs, the idea of getting paid fast-food wages to learn about electric cars for 12 weeks and becoming bonded to Tesla for two years is tempting. But, the price to pay for one’s freedom is a little high.

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A salary of $53,000 is the median household income level in the U.S. But, I think all technicians and shops deserve more. The hourly labor rates across the board are far too low for the amount of training and tooling it takes to repair modern vehicles. Shops are performing very complex tasks, delivering quality, professional repairs, day in and day out, but still charging the same as a plumber or carpenter.

I hate to turn this into an article about the technician shortage, but, the majority of theories about the shortage revolve around the premise that independent shops and dealerships do not make enough money to pay and to attract the right talent. I have to agree because the average hourly labor rate has not kept pace with vehicle technology; it has stalled out at an average of around $105 for the past decade, while Tesla has a hourly labor rate of $175.

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