Mercedes-Benz Invests in Training Program to Fight Critical Shortage of Mechanics

Mercedes is expanding its program to train qualified technicians for its dealers, who struggle to find skilled personnel.

byJames Gilboy|
Mercedes-Benz News photo

On Monday, Mercedes-Benz announced a new investment into its technician training programs via a Kentucky trade school, meant to secure a supply of skilled labor despite a critical shortage of qualified personnel.

Company executives and representatives of the local governance were present for a ceremony Monday to celebrate the partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Jefferson Community & Technical College. The new three-semester program through JCTC provides a pipeline toward employment in a skilled trade, and makes up a small piece of the automaker's nationwide "Mercedes-Benz DRIVE" program training nearly 400 new technicians per semester. The program is endorsed by the Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs, and is one of the few Registered Apprenticeship programs available through the latter.

"The Mercedes-Benz partnership with JCTC will help to meet a critical and immediate need for qualified, skilled automotive technicians," stated Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, in Mercedes' press release. "This innovative collaboration with an iconic, world-class company is a perfect addition to the Commonwealth's top-notch registered apprenticeship programs. High-tech, cutting-edge educational training programs such as this one are strengthening Kentucky's workforce and positioning our citizens and businesses for sustained success."

"The new Mercedes-Benz and Jefferson partnership is where the rubber meets the road," added Dr. Ty J. Handy, president of JCTC. "Employers in the Louisville area depend on us to grow the workforce in order to fill thousands of vacant positions. This program answers that call."

Skilled labor shortages affect the entire auto industry. A report from 2017 pins the cause on poor entry-level wages, disinterest in cars, and pressure to enter college instead of trade schools. Additionally, some blame inaccurate notions of what the profession involves for the shortage of skilled wrench-turners.

"The need for educational programs like these are important as we face an acute shortage of qualified technicians," stated Mercedes' VP of customer service, Christian Treiber. "The shortage largely comes from the outdated image of mechanics and increase in demand. Today's mechanics must now have a completely different skillset; they are technologists that cater to increasingly complex vehicles. Training programs like the ones at JCTC are critical to help close this technician gap."

"There has been a shift away from vocational and technical programs to college education in recent years (schools are encouraging students to choose a college track over a trade skill)," Treiber elaborated in an email to The Drive

"As technology is rapidly changing all facets of our lives (cars are no exception), technicians of today require a different skillset than the mechanics of years ago," he continued. "Today's technicians need special training and access to the diagnostic tools to keep cars operating safely and efficiently. They are technologists that are highly trained to care for our increasingly complex vehicles."

"While we continue to push the envelope for innovation—making our cars more efficient, more intelligent and safer than ever, they are also more complex. For example, the modern luxury car maintains more than 100 million lines of code. So it's no surprise that this complexity creates a basic need to ensure that our dealer partners are equipped with the ability to service these vehicles properly over their lifecycle," he finished.