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    • I was having a discussion the other day about finding mechanics. I'm sure it applies to some degree in other trades but in the SF Bay Area, it's next to impossible to find a trained mechanic.

      There are a variety of reasons for this; number one being the cost of living. An article in The Business Insider really solidified that for me. It had to do with the median salary reporting requirements. For Google, the median is $193k. For Facebook, $243k. For Apple, $150k. The second thing that matters is kids aren't choosing to get into the trades. This is true both in the motorcycle and car side and when they do, they could leave with $40k worth of school debt-not including the tools they need to own. The third thing is that unemployment is fairly low-it's a good thing but also makes finding employees difficult-and this is true for all employers.

      There are a number of other factors like the seasonal nature and how mechanics are paid. The later is being addressed simply due to changes in state law.

      Other trades are experiencing similar declines in entrants to their respective fields.

      I wonder what we can do to change that? We discussed scholarships, pay increases, and any number of things to improve. I'm also a fan of MikeRoweWorks and his effort to value the trades as a career path (tho the COL here in the Bay Area makes that hard).

      I sometimes wonder if the only people left in the area will be those working for tech companies. Everyone else will be bussed in. It's a joke but I could see it happening.

    • I think we need to legitimize trades as a career path for youth. It seems we push traditional college so heavily to high schoolers that in many areas there is little attention or respect given to skilled trades. A general college degree lands you with more debt and fewer money earning prospects than becoming skilled in a specific trade.

    • We've pushed people to colleges and a small percentage have completed school, decided they weren't happy with whatever they chose and are now doing something completely different. It's amazing to me how many have gone the BS/MS route before deciding.

    • Interesting topic!

      Two things:

      1) I wonder if higher ed isn’t going to take a big hit in the next few years—my experience as a faculty member and staff member at two different institutions has opened my eyes to just how bloated many campuses have become. It’s unsustainable. There are some people already expressing opinions about the futility of formal education past high school, saying it just creates more conformity and debt. I think they may have some legitimate talking points...

      2) I had a similar discussion with my independent BMW mechanic. He said our county (pop. 1.3 million) is right on the cusp of barely having a big enough market to sustain a brand-specific shop in addition to the local dealership. I was surprised at that, but I guess it makes sense.

      Your observations about COL in some bigger markets have me wondering if there is actually a rather small “window of opportunity” for independent mechanics with high quality brand-specific training and skills...

    • I design robotic assembly equipment for a living and spend a lot of time in the machine shops where my machines are built. Machinists, electricians, and other tradesmen in non-union shops tend not to be paid well enough to justify the level of responsibility that comes with the jobs. Machinists have to have a command of trigonometry, material science, and program and run very expensive machines that can be crashed by an errant input. Electricians can kill themselves and others. Why take on those levels of responsibility for low wages?

      I spent 15 years as an engineer in UAW plants and have seen the dark side of unions and what they can do to a business but I've also worked in plants with no union that use contract labor and "tradesmen" who haven't served an apprenticeship or had any proper training. Neither are good situations. To attract talent to the trades they need to be paid decently, trained properly, and treated with the respect their level of skill deserves. I don't see that happening without unions.

    • The area may support independent shops but what happens when they retire?

      With respect to motorcycling, overall numbers are decreasing across the board. Sales are down and have been trending down for some time. There are any number of theories why. Cost of vehicles, skill, time required to learn, desire to own vehicles, etc are all reasons for the decline.

      The number of mechanics has been decreasing for a while. It’s also been noted that tool sales are down. This isn’t good for the industry. It isn’t good for consumers.

    • Not just a bay area or shortage of mechanics problem. US companies that actually "make things" are facing a shortage of skilled workers such as machinists, even in places thought of as in the "rust belt" like Dayton, Ohio. More discerning conversations should be had at the high-school level. Good careers for smart students can be had without the extreme expense of a college education

    • I have to qualify the Bay Area thing because in other parts of the country, the order is different. But you are correct, years of of encouraging kids to go college vs exploration of various other careers has, in part, gotten us to where we are today. Schools no longer have shop classes or even home ec classes and kids are less interested in trades too.

    • I'm a tradesman, going on 20 years in. I've helped numerous friends and family get in the trade over the years. You're right. The first few years, it was the other young guys who just didn't want to do college. The last few have been college educated, decent career established guys who decided working with their hands and getting paid well was better than sticking with their chosen professional careers. Lately, no one is asking me to help them get in. I can't even convince my 16 year old son to follow my career path over going to college. My biggest fear is him doing the college thing, building up a near six figure student debt, then coming home and asking me to get him a job in the trade.
      What needs to be changed? Pay, long term treatment of employees, more reasonable work/life balance expectations, etc.
      My current situation is I need an elbow operated on next week. A cushy desk job, it would be no problem. In my line of work, it means no income for 8-12 weeks. Doctor says of course a 20 year work history of constuction, climbing ladders, carrying heavy crap, etc. took it's toll on my elbow and is certianly a factor in me needing surgery. Workers comp wants a specific accident that caused the injury, and since there isn't one, there's no coverage for it. Thankfully, I'm a saver and I can afford to take extended time off, but I know plenty of guys who are suffering through injuries due to not being able to miss a check.

    • Good careers for smart students can be had without the extreme expense of a college education

      I’ve seen a lot of my kids’ peers take the “trade school” route for computer training. They’re not interested in doing all the gen ed and liberal arts stuff—they want to get into (mostly) gaming ASAP.

      My son went through years of training to become an auto mechanic and body repair guy. After six months at a shop, he couldn’t stand it anymore. The cut-throat nature of being an independent contractor made him sick—no comraderie and a never-ending stream of broken cars that always needed to be fixed faster and cheaper. Ugh. Now he works as the shipping manager for a tech component building company and enjoys the team environment a lot more. It pays about the same, though: not enough.

    • I read my first motorcycle magazine sometime in the early to mid 1990s. They fretted about declining ridership back then, too. I wonder if it isn't cyclical. Bada boom! Unintentional pun.

    • The Bay Area is a fascinating - horrifying? - economic zone. I've often wondered how non-tech people can afford to live there.

      I also wonder how it's possible to improve conditions, pay etc. for the trades, when so many tradesman are independent contractors? Seems impossible, no?

    • I’m sure some percentage is cyclical. Wait for gas to get over $4-that’s another driver.