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 in this book, 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.
While you are at it, check into the job conditions. 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.
Investigate the demand for the type of job you choose from the vast array offered under the umbrella called automotive service. 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 midwest. 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 good 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.
SAMPLE WORK PROCESSES
The following is the recommended program that the Automotive Service Councils suggested in years past. It is still a good model for apprenticeships. Not all programs will be the same, but all of the essential items on this list should be a part of the apprentice's obligations before being awarded his or her certificate and being advanced to journeyman technician. These recommendations for a four-year apprenticeship are a guide that should be followed as closely as conditions permit:
Recommended Wage Schedule
The recommended wage schedule for the apprentice auto body technician is the same as for the automotive technician. The program, which takes four years (eight thousand hours), is divided by one-thousand-hour increments with the apprentice's wages being the same percentage of the journeyman's as shown for the auto mechanic. The average wage percentage over the course of the program is 72.5 percent.
Recommended Apprentice Ratio
Just as for the automobile mechanic, the recommended ratio of apprentices to journeymen is one to three. For example, if the shop employs from one to three journeymen, it should have one apprentice. If the shop employs seven to nine journeymen, it should employ three apprentices.
Automobile Painter or Refinisher
The final category covers the automobile painter. The apprenticeship program takes only three years or six thousand hours to complete. Following is the breakdown of the time and schedule of experiences for the auto painter.
Although the number of formal apprenticeships may be down, the informal apprenticeships that happen in a workplace also can be helpful. If you're in a unionized field, your chances of finding a formal program are better. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the United Auto Workers, and other unions may have more information on the subject.
Here is an apprenticeship program (2001) that's worked in St. Louis, Missouri. It was developed by car dealers, truck dealers, and the International Association of Machinists, along with the U.S. Department of labor.