Shop Life Repairer Profiles

Redefining the American Dream

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This month’s cover story addresses an issue discussed ad nauseam in the auto service industry: building tomorrow’s workforce.

It’s no secret that as the Baby Boomer generation ages and moves out of the industry, there aren’t nearly enough qualified auto service professionals to take their place. There are a variety of reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest is the societal mind set that Universal Technical Institute president Mike Romano refers to as a “vacuum.” For decades now, career success has been erroneously tied to attaining a four-year degree. If you want to achieve the American dream, that is the perceived path.

That mind set has caused widespread damage to the industry by way of a growing snowball: Young people aren’t interested in auto repair; seats in related classes sit empty; resources for those unpopular courses dry up; auto education programs die. The end result, of course, is a smaller, less educated workforce tasked with repairing the most technologically advanced and rapidly evolving vehicle fleet the industry has ever seen.

It is amazing to me how the same people who depend on their vehicles each day, who trust them with the lives of their families, will not accept auto service as a noble profession. Not only is it noble, it is essential and I don’t have to tell you that it can pay very well if you know what you’re doing.

So, what do we do about this problem? You’ll see in the previously mentioned story that industry educators are stepping up their game and encouraging shops to get on board. Change requires shop involvement in the education system and it also requires role models—shops that buck stereotypes and display from the front office through the production bays that this industry is something worth being a part of.

And the industry should not just be thinking of the kids themselves. Convincing parents that an auto service career is a viable option is arguably even more important. Next time a mother comes in to drop off her vehicle, consider what she sees. Then consider what impact that will have on her response when her son or daughter proposes a career in auto service. A parent’s career advice will often guide their children’s future.   

And if you’re a parent, show your children what makes this profession great. I know there are many stories of hardship out there and some of you question whether you want your children even thinking about a future in this industry. But consider where it is headed, how valuable the next generation of technicians will be. Share your work with them. Let them know it is an option.

The psychology of what it takes to achieve success in this country needs to change more than anything. Four-year institutions are still vital. They have their place, even within the auto service industry. But they are just one option. Reversing the vacuum won’t happen overnight, but it is possible if everyone does their part. 

Jake Weyer
jweyer@ratchetandwrench.com

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