The automotive market research firm IMR Inc. has released new insights on the perception of the trades as a career path within U.S. households. The study comes from a survey of 25,000 nationally representative households conducted during the first quarter of each year since 2020.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are millions of skilled trade job vacancies, and 39% of households surveyed fully agreed that there are unfilled positions in the automotive service industry providing high job security for automotive technicians. Men who knew someone in the trades were even more likely to agree than others.
Of the households discussing career options with a child, 45.5% said they were discussing a four-year college degree (among other options) and 45.6% of those having that conversation were recommending the four-year college degree option to their child.
However, when asked what option their child was most seriously considering, 33.5% said a four-year college degree and 33.8% said entering the workforce immediately. When asked if their child intended to pursue a job in the trades were they to enter the workforce immediately, 84.5% said “yes.”
Overall, 42.6% of households surveyed said they would be extremely likely to recommend the trades as a career path if their child or a family member were considering it. This is up from 2020 when only 39% said they would make that recommendation.
Households with a family member or friend working in the trades were more likely to recommend that career path option to their child at 64.6%. If the household did not have a family member or friend working in the trades, only 38.5% of those surveyed would make the recommendation.
Among all households surveyed — whether discussing career options with a child or not — the top three trades recommended were electrician, HVAC installation and repair, and aircraft maintenance and repair. Automotive technician was the fifth most common response. However, if the household was discussing career options with a child, automotive technician ranked third.
Rural households (61.6%) and urban households (52.2%) were more likely to recommend the trades than households in the suburbs (41.6%).
Regardless of household location, there was some recognition of the cost differential between automotive technician training and a traditional college education. Fourty-one percent fully agreed that the cost of completing the required education to become an automotive technician is significantly less than the cost of a traditional college education, but the awareness of this gap is greater among men, higher earners and those with more educational experience.
While shops reported that the most important trait they look for in a technician is being analytical and a problem solver, only 47% of households surveyed fully agreed that STEM skills are needed to become an automotive technician.
When asked about how automotive technicians are portrayed, more than a third of household respondents said they believe technicians are often portrayed negatively. And, 17% of respondents believed being an automotive technician is a job, not a career, while 44% disagreed with the statement.
Additionally, 42% of households fully agreed that income-earning opportunities for automotive technicians can be equal to, or greater than, other careers that require a four-year college degree, with younger generations more likely to agree with this statement than older generations.