Recently I was thinking back on the direction my career has taken and came across this letter that I wrote to myself when I was just begining. Thought I would share it with all of you. If you have any questions or comments you can Email me at Jake@aapros.com.
By Jake Maltby
It’s the year 2001; 1 have just graduated high school and like many in my directionless generation I think, “what now?” Do I pursue a career in computers and sit behind a desk? Do I pursue my admiration of working with my hands and loose my job to a man who will do it for half the pay? No.
Like many of the men in the world today, I wanted to work with my hands, but more importantly I wanted to work in a challenging career that tested me everyday. I am one of the most skilled, technical, scientific, and under appreciated men of our times; I am today’s automotive technician.
Today’s aspiring technician is faced with several dilemmas: first is education, second are monetary expenses, and third and most important is experience. Education is vital to a young tech, there is so much going on in a single vehicle it is impossible to gain that knowledge threw trial and error. It is very easy to damage and ruin integral components in today’s automobiles, costing you and your employer unnecessary payouts. Lets face it; these aren’t the cars you’re dad used to sup up in his driveway. These machines are some of the most technical human advances to date. Education is limited to a select few schools and in my case is a grossly under funded and under appreciated program. Technology is changing rapidly in the automotive industry, yet the men and women in administration, not only in schools but also in the field, do not give the proper support and attention needed to inspire today’s uninspired youth. I have found in my experience that men and women teaching today’s technicians are not willing to learn the new technologies associated with the vehicles of today. A Chevy Vega is not a Lexus ES 400 or even a Camry.
So I am learning the cut and dry basics in school, I can say that, but I need to get a job in the field. When I pick up a newspaper for career listings I find “must have own tools”. The tools required to work on the millions of makes and models of automobiles are not the tools you would find in your dad’s toolbox, they are an expensive investment. A tech relies on these tools to make a living; you cannot depend on some run of the mill wrench that only causes frustration and lost time. Good tools equal speed, which in turn equals money, so like always it takes money to make money but it is hard to start out in this business as a young tech, especially when you don’t know where to start. It just takes time.
The hardest obstacle to overcome when starting in this business is experience. It is impossible to know everything about every car. This trade is based on a commission pay, which starves the inexperienced tech right out of the field. Most of the time a young tech gets hired by some shad tree shop for minimal pay and ends up perpetuating that kind of persona further along in his career. This persona is not only bad for the tech; it is bad for the industry. It just conveys mechanics’ as dirty, filthy men out to rip people off. All the education in the world will not help today’s tech without hands on experience.
I feel today’s shop should embrace young technicians instead of making them jump threw hoops. This is a very technical trade that requires hard work and dedication. More programs should be available to young people to show them the advances in the automotive industry. I understand this is a business but it is also a passion of the men and women willing to endure the trials and tribulations of this complex industry. Today’s social views of technicians are wrong and need to be changed, but this can only be rectified by teaching young techs how to do it correctly. One day we will be appreciated, one day people will know the skills and dedication required to diagnose and repair their vehicle. I only hope it will be in my lifetime.
This is a very insightful comentary on the struggles of a technician starting out in today’s world. My husband is an automotive tech and we scraped by for years so he could purchase the tools he needed to do his job with speed and accuracy, as that is the only way a mechanic can make a living. He was fortunate enough to be accepted as an apprentice after working at several shops that were not willing to give him the training he needed. This opportunity gave him the knowledge and experience to become a great technician. “I am one of the most skilled, technical, scientific, and under appreciated men of our times; I am today’s automotive technician.” This line in Jake’s blog sums up what it means to be a mechanic in today’s world, so next time, thank your technician, his job is much more complex and difficult than you would ever think. Remember that he also ensures that you and your family are safe every time you get behind the wheel. An automotive tech demands much more respect and admiration than public opinion grants them, their job is so very important to everyone’s safety, we all share the road.