GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mechanics are in high demand in West Michigan as the industry continues to face challenges from a global parts shortage.

The Grand Rapids Community College Auto Technology Program is the biggest trainer of technicians in West Michigan and almost every person who completes the program finds a position in the industry.

“(The demand for employees is) ongoing. We get calls and emails all the time from dealerships, independent shops,” Brett Atchison, the head of the GRCC auto tech program, said.

While retirements of older workers is playing a role, Atchison said more needs to be done to get young people interested in the field.

“For decades, we’ve been telling students they have to go to four-year college and get a degree and we haven’t put enough emphasis on the skilled trades,” Atchison said.

Jamie Carlson, the co-owner of Ervine’s Auto Repair in Wyoming, says while she only has one opening right now, many other repair shops in the area have a great need.

“We also are members of some associations that are nationwide so that’s when we go to these meetings that’s always a big topic of finding technicians. It’s a challenge,” Carlson said.

Carlson said the position offers good perks and employers are getting competitive to attract and retain talent.

“It’s full insurance benefits. It’s time off. It’s a good pay,” Carlson said.

The shortage of technicians is a problem even automotive parts manufacturers are noticing. Ryan Kooiman, the director of training with New York-based Standard Motor Products, was part of a group of industry leaders visiting the GRCC program on Friday.

“It could be weeks before you can get into your local shop because of this huge labor shortage,” Kooiman said.

The industry is working to educate young people about the opportunities working as an automotive technician can offer.

“I don’t think many students truly realize what this career truly looks like and so that’s where it’s important to reach young people, even at the fifth and sixth grade level, and change their mindset that maybe some of their parents and generations ahead about them have had about the automotive repair industry. We need to show them that this really is a high-tech career,” Kooiman said.

For more information on the automotive programs offered at GRCC, you can visit its website.