Service station attendants work in every part of the nation, from the smallest rural communities to the largest metropolitan areas-from the busy high-volume downtown station to the loneliest station at a remote highway intersection.
Applicants for a job as a service station attendant need to meet some basic requirements. They should have a valid driver's license, understand how an automobile works, and be familiar with the operation and location of the various items in the engine compartment. The attendant should know how to examine fluids, belts, and hoses; replace filters and wiper blades; and install oil and transmission fluid.
The service station attendant should have a neat appearance, be friendly and courteous, and like to deal with people. He or she should have a certain degree of self-confidence and be articulate enough to explain things to the customer It is often important to be a salesperson, and confidence improves the attendant's ability to do so.
The applicant should have good arithmetic skills. The person should be trustworthy and honest. More and more, owners and managers make use protests to determine the applicant's honesty, since an attendant is responsible for large sums of money.
Most employers prefer high school graduates but will often hire student for part-time employment. A high school education is usually required to take advantage of the management training programs offered by many of the major oil companies.
Most service station attendants receive their training on the job. There are some formal training programs.
Many high schools offer formal training in service station work. For the part-time person, this is the best place to start. Some schools offer work-study program and will assist in placing the student in a service station. The student may earn scholastic credit for time spent at the service station. The program usually consists of several basic business education and automotive courses. Students usually receive instruction in service station operation in the classroom and put it into practice at the job site. Some of the major oil companies offer formal training programs. These programs usually take from two to eight weeks to complete. The student is aught simple automotive service and maintenance as well as marketing and business management. Emphasis is usually placed on selling techniques and customer relations. The trainee learns how to take inventory and control the flow of production. He or she also is taught how to order products and display item and how to make sales.
A multitude of avenues will open to the person who begins as a service station attendant. Once the entry-level attendant becomes familiar with the automobile, he or she may seek training in becoming an automotive technician or mechanic. Most service station mechanics, who get formal training go on to work t automobile dealerships or independent garages, or they return to the service station industry to work as full-time technicians.
Those whose talents lean more toward management may eventually become night managers or full-time managers of their own stations. Others may be able to find jobs as service managers or service advisers at automobile dealerships.
Many persons who combine the talents of a mechanic with those of business management aspire to own or manage their own service station. In fact, many mechanics eventually open their own service stations, but unless they also are good at business, or find a partner who is, they may fail. The service station business is one of the easiest to get into but also one of the easiest in which to fail.
Some service stations are owned privately, while others are leased from oil companies. Today there is a shift toward ownership rather than leasing. For some of those who lease, the oil company may eventually be the source of jobs for sales representatives or district managers.
Overall employment in the service station industry is expected to remain steady or show a slight decline through the next decade. Projections call for about 139,000 attendants nationwide in 2008, a slight drop from current levels. This is primarily due to an anticipated leveling off of gasoline consumption. Although the public has been driving more, vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient. Another factor is the rise in the number of strictly self-service facilities that are nothing more than stores that sell fuel and, frequently, convenience food items. Some industry analysts point out that full-service station attrition may have peaked and the service station universe has stabilized.
In any event, the employment outlook is still quite good. Since the service station industry is such a large one, thousands of job openings will become available every year, mostly because former attendants move on to other occupation!
Usually the best way to get more information about becoming a service station attendant is to go directly to a few stations in your area and talk with the manager or other attendants. You may wish to discuss job possibilities with your school guidance counselor or shop instructor. The local state employment service also can be of assistance.