Child Labor for Repair Shops

Child Labor for Repair Shops

This could be a chance to introduce teenagers to the auto care industry.

I saw something while walking into a retail parts store recently. It was a large sign stating they’re hiring at age 16. I think this is a brilliant move! It could help solve some labor shortages while creating future employees for the auto care industry.

I realize this could be a polarizing issue for those on both the left and right. Some see it as a pro-business move to alleviate post-pandemic labor shortages. Others see it as a way for big corporations to hire cheap labor. Myself? I am taking the long-term view on the opportunity because it is a chance to introduce teenagers to the auto care industry.

When I was 14, I got my first job as a caddy at a golf course. I was big for my age. It was an excellent opportunity to earn money and learn. The job taught me etiquette, punctuality and how to carry two golf bags for 18 holes. It introduced me to golf, a game I play to this day. 

It was not until I was 20 when I got my first job as a porter at a new car dealership. I thought, what if I got a four-year head start on my journey? The experience gained at a parts store or shop would have been extremely valuable. A job in the auto care industry would have been a much better experience than my brief stints as a busboy and bouncer.

In those days, I was always looking for a new part-time job. There were a lot of jobs that I couldn’t even apply for because I was not 18 yet. 


The history of child labor in the US is filled with horrific stories of exploitation from the turn of the 20th century. The greed of many business owners forced the federal and state governments to enact regulations and fines. 

Most modern violations were for allowing the children to work during the school day or late at night. Then, there is the question of whether a shop is safe for minor employees. According to ASE, “automotive repair” is not classified as a “hazardous occupation” by federal and most state laws. Still, some activities are considered hazardous and prohibited for workers under 18. 

Minors working in automotive repair facilities are most often limited by two federal hazardous occupation orders concerning motor vehicle operation and the use of power-driven apparatus.

Most state laws ban minors from driving vehicles on public streets as part of their job. However, the rules do not prohibit them from moving vehicles on the facility’s private property. Laws can be particular on what type of equipment they can use. Some laws state they may not operate engine hoists, power winches or tow truck hoists. However, another state may allow them to use a vehicle lift, jack, tire machine or wheel balancer.

If you have minors, they must be included in your workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Most insurance companies are willing to work with your shop. It might be expensive, depending on your state.

The Long Game

When looking for my first job, I didn’t realize how much my experiences would influence my future. If shops could influence the next generation of technicians by hiring them at the age of 16 for part-time jobs, down the road they would be more receptive to working in the automotive service industry at all levels.

But what value does a 16-year-old employee bring to a business today? A lot! The first thing they bring is energy. These kids might not know what they are doing, but they have the energy to do it. Second, they bring a fresh perspective because they are not set in their ways and have yet to be beaten down by some customers.

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Do You Want The Bad News Or Good?

There are many ways you can help play the long game, and TechForce has free resources to help inspire and promote the profession. 

Let’s start  with the bad news – get right into it, Band-Aid style.

There is likely to be a shortfall of more than 800,000 techs to serve the motoring public over the next five years.

Of course, that not really “news,” at least not of the breaking variety. We’ve been wrestling with numbers like these for decades – the information that fewer students are coming out of school trained to be or at least excited about being part of this industry has been on a lot of minds for a very long time.

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