MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) —The ongoing shortage of diesel technicians is a top concern for repair shops as the industry experiences a decline in qualified candidates, and Horry Georgetown Technical College is taking steps to help alleviate the problem.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry will add 28,100 openings for diesel service technicians and mechanics each year from 2020 to 2030.

HGTC’s new diesel engine technician facility, which is expected to be ready for students in August, will have more than 5,000 square feet.

Scott Nelson, service manager at C&G auto in Myrtle Beach, said the need for quality diesel mechanics in the area is huge. He added that he already has had to start hiring employees out of high school and provide training.

“There’s very few in the Myrtle Beach or Horry County area,” he said. “A lot of times we’re sending things out to Florence to get done because they are already busy due to the shortage.”

Sending customers’ vehicles to other counties increases the price tag on maintence, he said.

Local mechanic shops already depend on the popular diesel mechanic training program at HGTC to help alleviate the labor shortages. The expanded program will have a new building, additional instructors and more open slots for students.

However, the program still has a waiting list of more than two semesters. 

Jeff Ball, the chair of advanced manufacturing at HGTC, said the expansion will allow the school to double its graduating classes and help fill up vacant mechanic positions throughout the area. 

“They’re more and more companies getting into the diesel technology repair because of the demand, and many companies in our area come to our school to specifically hire students out of our program immediately,” Ball said.

With the cost of gas and the impact of inflation, Nelson said people are not willing to travel to Myrtle Beach from surrounding cities for work. He said he is the excited about the expansion at HGTC and hopes that graduates stay in the area.

“The more mechanics and diesel mechanics in this area that knows what they’re doing is going to totally bring down the cost while we see the cost of parts rising, labor costs are rising,” he said. “Trying to mitigate those with people that know what they’re doing out of school is going to help us fix things a lot faster and get it done the right way the first time.”

HGTC said the expansion will allow it to increase enrollment by 35 students, drastically lowering the wait list. Tuition at HGTC will be free for the upcoming school year.