From the days of Holden versus Ford towards an electric future, Australia’s automotive industry is undergoing a fair bit of change.
Michael Cope, Education Manager, Automotive at Chisholm, says today’s mechanics need to keep up with the high-tech, advancing systems in our cars.
“It’s a never-ending evolution – every new car has got something different, something new,” he says.
“They're becoming safer and more fuel-efficient, and, over the next few years, a number of manufacturers have said they're not going to be making a petrol engine anymore – it's going to all be electric.”
Here are some of the key trends Michael’s seeing across the auto industry – and how you can make sure you get the right skills for the job.
Still high demand for mechanics
Firstly, something that hasn’t changed is the need for automotive technicians.
Michael says there’s consistently high demand out there for skilled auto-mechanics, and now is a particularly good time for those looking for a job.
In fact, the industry has been recognised as a skills shortage area for Australia, so some training is currently available for free or subsidised by the federal government – such as Chisholm’s pre-apprenticeship course, the Certificate II in Automotive Servicing Technology.
“A good automotive technician is hard to find, and you can get paid a reasonable wage if you are in the right place and your knowledge is there,” says Michael.
The workplace environment is cleaner
Michael says the popular image of an automotive workshop is out of step with many of today’s workplaces.
“It has a bit of a persona as a dirty industry – you see a mechanic in a movie or on TV with their face and overalls covered in dirt – but it's not like that anymore,” he says.
“If you look at all the dealerships, they have a tiled floor, there's a coffee area, a lounge in a waiting room – it's not a dark and dingy type of place; there are places like that, but it's not the norm now.
“And, a lot of people aren’t wearing overalls anymore, because they're not really getting dirty,” he adds.
Instead, you’ll likely spend a lot of your time putting your problem-solving skills to the test and working with the electronics of a vehicle.
“Electrical engineering, reprogramming computers, updating systems, all that sort of stuff is pretty normal to do these days.”
For those who do like the idea of getting their hands dirty, Michael says there is still the opportunity if you’re working on larger vehicles like four-wheel drives, trucks, plant and earth moving equipment.
Computer diagnostics are more relevant
It’s important for today’s automotive technician to be able to use new and evolving technologies like scan tools, which help diagnose problems in a car’s computer system.
“When you drive the older vehicles, you notice the separate manual systems they have – but now there are all these different modules in the cars, and they're all talking to each other,” says Michael.
A lot of these features make driving safer – such as blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alerts, and automatic braking, or even the radio automatically adjusting its volume as you drive faster.
Being able to correctly diagnose problems with some of the more complex systems in a vehicle is now a vital skill, and something you’ll learn in your training.
“Chisholm has industry specific diagnostic scan tools that enable us to access the vehicles computer systems and search for trouble codes. We’ve recently taken delivery of state-of-the-art wheel alignment and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist Systems) calibration equipment” says Michael.
EVs and hybrids are here to stay
The major revolution underway throughout the global automotive industry is, of course, the transition to electric vehicles.
Michael says this trend is creating flow-on demand for automotive technicians who have knowledge of electric vehicles.
“With all the hybrids and electric vehicles that are being produced and getting out there, there’s more demand for the ability to service those kinds of vehicles,” he says.
You can choose to undertake specialist training in the area, like Chisholm’s hybrid servicing course, to make sure you understand the safety requirements.
“The battery electric vehicle is a bit different in the drive system or in the electrics side of things,” says Michael.
“And it can be quite dangerous if you don't know what you're doing because it has very high voltages – more than your house has got. Your house runs on 240 volts and these things run up to 600 volts.”
As electric vehicle technology continues to improve, consumer demand for these vehicles is on the rise.
“The batteries are getting better, and the technology is getting better. They're getting 400 and 500 kilometres out of an average charge now – so it's getting up to the same as what you get out of the tank of petrol,” explains Michael.
“The electric vehicle side of things is certainly taking off – and that's not going to stop.”
How can you find work in the automotive industry?
Michael says a pre-apprenticeship course like Certificate II in Automotive Servicing Technology is a good starting point for people who want to gain practical skills within a purpose-built automotive workshop.
“We encourage the students to bring their own cars in to work on – so a lot of the Cert II students end up getting their vehicle serviced as part of part of the course,” he says.
By progressing to an apprenticeship course like Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology, you can keep building your skills on the job.
Michael says you could complete your apprenticeship in an independent workshop or in a large dealership, depending on the range of experience you’re after.
How to know if an automotive career is right for you?
A career in the automotive industry suits people who enjoy problem-solving, are interested in learning about new technologies and, ultimately, love cars, says Michael.
“It certainly helps if you're mechanically minded – but if you simply have an interest in or a passion for cars, and you want to know about the insides and how they work, then it's a fantastic area to get into.”
Courses to consider
- Certificate II in Automotive Servicing Technology (pre-apprenticeship) *Free TAFE course
- Certificate II in Automotive Air Conditioning Technology *Free TAFE course
- Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology (apprenticeship)
- Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology (apprenticeship)
- Certificate III In Mobile Plant Technology AUR31220 (apprenticeship)
- High Voltage Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Safety Awareness
- Certificate IV in Automotive Management.