LINCOLN, Ala. -- What is it with kids these days?
Automotive jobs are going begging, causing automakers, retailers and state governments to search for creative ways to attract young people to the industry.
They need to. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the auto industry, including dealerships, will have tens of thousands of jobs to fill in the next several years -- for new plants, for operations in far-flung locations and even in the U.S. industry's traditional ground zero, Detroit.
Picture this: Managers from Honda Motor Co. this month invited local high school students into their light-truck plant here to get young minds to consider someday assembling Pilot SUVs and Odyssey minivans for a living.
Other automotive companies are making similar efforts. That's because the youth of America seems to be uninterested in working in the auto business -- one of the nation's most rewarding employment fields for the last century. But the industry is yearning to hire young people for assembly lines, engineering departments and vehicle repair centers, says Mike Oatridge, vice president of manufacturing at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.
Honda's most pressing need at the moment is people who understand how robots can network via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth -- exactly the sort of skill set that would come naturally to a generation weaned on iPods and cellphones.
"As a company -- and as an industry -- we've always relied on the fact that people just know what jobs we have here and that they'll come to us as we need them," Oatridge says. "That's not really happening now.
"People are getting the message that they need to grow up and be a dentist or work in the media," he adds, with a touch of defensiveness in his voice. "The auto industry has good jobs."