Dealerships, trade schools, organizations such as the TechForce Foundation and even the US Department of Labor remind us frequently of the impending and critical need for a fresh crop of automotive technicians. With old-school mechanics retiring and with vehicles becoming more computer-technology dependent, the need is real.
And it’s not just dealerships and auto repair shops feeling the pain. Finding qualified people with the sorts of skills needed in a restoration or customization garage are so acute that Dave Kindig, owner of Kindig-It Design and star of the television series Bitchin’ Rides, considered opening his own trade school to create the specialists he needs as his business continues to expand.
“I have 34 employees and could use 20 more,” Kindig said this week during an interview at the 2021 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, adding that his shop in Salt Lake City, Utah, has a 6-year backlog of customer projects waiting for competent staff to complete.
But rather than start his own school, Kindig is working with Lincoln Educational Services Corporation to establish the Kindig Academy at Lincoln’s campus in Denver, Colorado.
“Earning a Kindig Academy certification is a unique credential for a custom vehicle designer and fabricator,” said Chad Nyce, chief innovation officer at Lincoln Tech.
“If the MBA is the top credential in business, this is the MBA for custom car fabrication.”
The Kindig Academy will be a 6-week, 240-instruction-hours program with perhaps 12 students in each session. The program launches in January 2022. Tuition will be $7,500. Lincoln already sees the program expanding to others of its 22 campuses in 14 states, and with a periodic special sessions dealing, for example, with upholstery, a skill with an aging population of expert craftspeople.
Kindig and Nyce both said the school not only will offer expert instruction, but state-of-the art equipment.
Nyce said the initial expectation was that students enrolling would be collision technicians looking for the next step in their careers. Unexpected, however, has been the early response from older car owners looking to enhance the skills for customizing their own vehicles.
The faculty will include Lincoln instructors who will be spending time in Salt Lake City learning Kindig methods, supported not only by visiting member of the Kindig team, but by other experts in the field.
Nyce said the program is designed along the lines of what might have been the Eddie Van Halen school of guitar, with guest instructors such as B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.