Ratchet+Wrench continues its series looking at 2018’s World Class Technician recipients, including a brief bio of their career, and their thoughts on the industry. The newest profile is on Kenneth Bridges, market manager for Ellsworth VIP Tires and Service for the past seven years.
There are an estimated 879,000 technicians in the United States, with more than 300,000 of them holding ASE certification. Nearly 2,000 technicians have earned the status of “World Class Technician” since its inception over 30 years ago.
To earn World Class status, a technician must achieve certification in 22 specialty areas during the 2017 certification test administered by ASE.
Can you give a brief bio on your career journey? What made you passionate about the automotive industry?
I started in a technical school called Hancock County Tech Center in Ellsworth, Maine, then continued my training at Universal Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. After graduation I went to work for Mid Valley Engineering as a driveline specialist working for race teams in the NASCAR Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks and the ARCA series. From there I went to work competition transmission and gear as a driveline specialist. Then I moved back to the state of Maine and started my career with VIP Tires and Service. At VIP I am the market manager, so I run the Ellsworth location and also oversee other locations.
How and why did you earn your World Class certification with ASE?
It’s a great privilege to have to opportunity to work for a company like VIP Tires & Service that takes ownership in their employee’s growth within the company. This was the main reason I was able to get the World Class status. We were all sitting in a meeting with the president, vice president and CFO of VIP and they were talking about the World Class Technicians that were in Maine. That day I decided that this was going to be a goal of mine to become one.
What’s your favorite part about working in the repair industry?
It’s a new challenge every day. It’s great to be able to get the customer back on the road and fix the issues they are having with their cars. The best part of my job is that our shops have an open door policy where we take the customers to see the cars in the shop, and educate them about what’s going on with their cars. Getting to educate the customer in the shop at their car really helps them see what’s going on and what it’s going to take to fix it.
What are your thoughts on the technician shortage currently facing the industry? What are some ways the industry can get people more like yourself involved and passionate about being a technician?
There’s always going to be broken cars and shops need to be planning ahead for recruiting the next up-and-coming techs to work for them. The industry really needs to focus on getting people to see the big picture with repairing cars. Almost everything in a car is computer controlled and there’s tons of opportunities in the field for every person’s skill level—from a computer savvy person to a person that likes getting dirty wrenching on cars. The industry is moving from the old school technicians to technicians that can diagnose most of a customers complaints with a scan tool or computer. Shops just need to be investing in their technician’s futures and making sure they are getting the training that’s needed to stay up to date on all the changes.