The rapid and evolving innovations in vehicle technology are changing the skill set that employers are looking for in the automotive technology industry. Research conducted by Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI), noted that “more than 75% of employers surveyed said that soft skills were as important as – or more important than – technical skills in securing entry-level employment [and] that a national survey of employers reflect similar views” (Pritchard, 2013). Buning, Cantrell, Marshall, and Smith (2011) in their report, Solving the Skills Crisis, noted “the term unskilled labor has all but disappeared from the business vocabulary.” Industry leaders are seeking technicians with both the hard and soft skills to be successful in today’s automotive technology industry.
What are the soft skills that employers are looking for in the automotive technology industry? At the top of the list are written and verbal communication skills that foster good customer service and the ability to participate in a team. “Workers must possess communication and teamwork skills that enable problem-solving and continuous improvement in process and quality systems (Driving Workforce Change, 2011) Time management and organizational skills are integral to the automotive technology industry, as well as the ability to work under pressure and being flexible. These employee characteristics contribute to meeting the service and customer satisfaction goals of a company.
The critical thinking skills required in automotive diagnostics are another soft skill that employers are seeking. The automotive technology industry needs “technical employees who can consider the interaction of vehicle systems and can work to optimize solutions broadly.” Currently electronics account for 25% of a vehicle’s value and in the next 5-10 years it is projected to exceed 40% (Driving Workforce Change, 2011). Having the IT skills for effective written internal and external communications and the skill set to navigate and master the use of today’s diagnostic scan tools for auto repair will become increasingly important as cars integrate more complex electronic systems. The rapid innovations in automotive electronics and technology will require blending critical thinking skills and IT with advanced diagnostics to successfully target repairs of the integrated vehicle systems of tomorrow.
Intrinsic qualities that foster the soft skill set required for today’s work environment include a willingness to learn, self-confidence, a positive attitude, and demonstrating a good work ethic. These intrinsic qualities, coupled with the ability to improve performance with constructive criticism, will provide the path to advancement and being an effective member of a team. These attributes will not only facilitate personal success, but the capacity to become a meaningful member of a team that fosters quality improvement and customer service.
Developing the knowledge of an organization and an understanding of its market and what makes the business successful is critical to the interview process. Commercial Awareness is “one of the key attributes cited by many employers as being essential to employability, yet job applicants have difficulty demonstrating this skill” (Skills You Need, 2014). Understanding the nature of a company before the interview process, as well as having the technical and soft skills that demonstrate a goodness of fit with an organization, will significantly improve both your marketability and employability.
Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, notes that employers are looking for applicants to highlight specific situations from their experience where they applied their soft skills, such as helping to solve a problem or contributing as a team member, as well as highlighting applicable technical skills specific to the job description (Driscoll, 2013).
During the interview process the candidate with the edge will be the one who has the soft skills that the industry is looking for, the hard skills that have a goodness of fit with the organization, and the capacity to communicate the relevance of these skills to the framework of the company.
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