Automotive Technician - Learning The Trade

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There are many ways to learn a subject. One is to read about it and learn the theory as best you can. The other is to perform the task yourself and learn by doing. Both are good methods, but neither one of them is enough for learning. Although experience is an excellent teacher, doing a task without understanding why makes the worker little more than a robot. In the automotive service business, that person is usually referred to as a parts-changer, because that is all he or she is capable of doing.

The first place for an aspiring automotive technician to start is in high school.

It is a difficult thing to admit, but in the past the automotive curriculum was often considered a catch all for those who could not, or would not, do well in the academic disciplines. No longer is that the case. If you are seriously interested in the field of automotive repair and service, there is much to learn.

Basic courses in mathematics are vital to make computations for necessary adjustments and repairs to vehicular systems. Courses in grammar and English are important because the job requires that you be able to communicate orally and in writing. There is much reading to do in the service business. Technical manuals and trade journals keep the technician informed of new developments and service techniques. Nobody is expected to know all there is to know about every vehicle ever manufactured. You are, however, expected to know where to find the answers and be able to put that information into practice.

If your school offers blueprint reading, it will be beneficial. Courses in electronics and physics will help you understand the principles of operation and then put them into practice.

Take business courses. There is usually much business math involved unless you choose to work for a big shop where all you will do is repair cars.

In most of the smaller shops and garages, you may have to write the repair order, diagnose the problem, give the customer an estimate, service the vehicle, and finally compute the bill and collect the payment from the customer. Since some technicians go on to become service advisers and service managers, this is good practice, and the skills and knowledge learned early will be a benefit later. You can join the Automotive Service Association and study at the Automotive Management Institute, Bedford, Texas, for accredited automotive managers, or get general business training from local schools and colleges.

Take Time And Plan

Too many people never get around to planning their careers. They just bounce around from job to job and fall into a career by default. Since most people will spend the better part of their lives working from twenty five to forty five years it is well worth your time and effort to make some career planning decisions.

The first rule is simple, take the time and plan. Even a few days or weeks in planning, is a lot better than a lifetime of regret or underemployment. What is underemployment? That is what happens to someone who has the ability and aptitude for getting a better job, but since he or she is not sufficiently trained, he or she ends up in jobs that do not offer enough challenge, money, or personal satisfaction. They know they can do better, but they aren't able to land that job for lack of either experience or training.

Planning a career takes thought. It also takes enough information to make a good decision. It is surprising how even a few hours of investigation can pay off big dividends for your future.

As you are probably aware, jobs are becoming increasingly specialized. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor lists more than twenty-thousand career specialties in its Dictionary of Occupational Titles. In addition, new technology is creating a demand for a much more highly skilled work force, and employers are putting a premium on persons who have those specific skills that are beneficial to their operation. The automotive field is becoming more specialized every year. Automotive systems are each growing more complex as the auto manufacturers find new ways to increase fuel economy and to reduce emissions. According to estimates from the Department of Labor, most of the future jobs will require some sort of specialized technical or trade school training, if not college.

Points In Personal Planning

The first things to consider in planning your personal future are your interests. Take the time to list all the things you like to do. Are you happy working indoors or outdoors? Do you like working with people, or do you prefer to work alone? Would you like to wear a necktie or business suit, or do you want to wear jeans to work? Consider all the things you enjoy doing and list them. If it is hard to do, consider some of the things you have done in the past, and then pick out the common facets that have made them pleasurable. You soon will see a pattern emerge and learn what you like to do.

The next item to consider is salary or wages. What is the starting salary of the field you choose? What can you expect to be earning in a couple of years on the job? How about ten or fifteen years down the road? Although we have tried to indicate what kind of money you may expect to earn, there is no better way to find out than to go and ask someone who is employed in the trade. You also may get some help from your local state employment office.

Visit a few repair facilities and see firsthand what the shop is like. Would you like to work in the kind of environment you see? Now is the time to make sure that a career in automotive service is everything you expect it to be. Make the right choice today, one you'll be happy with the rest of your life.

Is the demand greater than the number of persons qualified to fill those jobs? If so, you've chosen something that will almost guarantee you employment. For example, there is usually a bigger demand for men and women who are expert in air-conditioning service in the hotter areas of the country than in the colder north. Fortunately, automotive service will continue to be in demand.

Another thing to consider is mobility. Would you like to work in your present locale, or would you prefer to move somewhere else? With automotive service, you can just about pick where you want to work. At present there are job openings almost everywhere in the country, but there are fewer jobs available in the industrialized areas of the east and mid-west. The openings do exist; there are just fewer of them.

Finally, find out what the educational requirements are of the job in which you are interested. You must know your trade well to make yourself marketable. You can prove your worth with experience, certification, or a diploma from a reputable trade school or junior college. You may learn enough in a trade school to land some jobs in as little as a few months. To earn an associate degree from a junior or community college, it usually takes two years. In automotive service, a bachelor's degree from college usually won't do you as much well as technical training from a trade school or community college. However, some of the most skilled technicians have college degrees in addition to their trade school training. All techs, no matter how advanced, continue to attend workshops and seminars to update their skills. In the automotive trades, learning is a lifelong process, according to Bill Boyd, National Technical Training Manager for Daimler Chrysler.

In 1984 the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) set up the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Both secondary (high school) and postsecondary (college) programs are certified by the NATEF at the school's request. The areas in which a school can be certified are the same ones in which a technician can get certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. These include engine repair, automatic transmission/transaxle, manual drivetrain and axles, front-end, brakes, electrical systems, heating and air-conditioning, and engine performance.
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