DETROIT-Automotive service technicians are getting some help polishing their image, thanks to efforts by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a respected professional organization. SAE has formed the Service Technicians Society, an affiliate professional society for service technicians. The new organization's mission is to support the maintenance, repair, dismantling, recycling and disposal of vehicles, while improving the image and self-esteem of service technicians. It plans to accomplish that goal through technician support, recognition and training.
The new organization was announced recently by the SAE at its annual International Congress and Exposition in Detroit.
The Service Technicians Society is part of SAE's ``Total Life Cycle'' concept which takes into account a vehicle's life from concept to recycling. The new group bridges the gap between the engineers who design and build vehicles and the technicians who maintain them.
``We hope to serve the needs of technicians the way SAE serves the needs of engineers,'' said Jack Heyler, diagnostics consultant to the Automotive Service Councils of California and a consultant to the STS Organizing Committee. Mr. Heyler participated in a panel discussion about the new organization at the SAE convention.
The organization is patterned after SAE, which offers its members technical information through several venues including meetings, books, technical papers, magazines and continuing education programs.
STS will offer similar services. One possible method is through interactive training that uses video compact discs, a TV and a device that links the two. The device sells for less than $500, Mr. Heyler said.
Membership is open to any technician who has passed one or more nationally recognized certification tests, such as those administered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and various states.
Mr. Heyler said STS expects to attract 5,000 to 10,000 members in its first year. The governing board is putting the final touches on the organization and is accepting membership applications.
John Gahrs, a professor of automotive service at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., also took part in the SAE panel discussion. He agreed that the industry has an image problem.
The two biggest obstacles the industry faces when trying to attract young people, according to Mr. Gahrs, are ``Mom and Dad.''
Parents are often turned off by the untidy appearance of many high school automotive shops and the idea of their child choosing a career that calls for working in that environment.
Mr. Gahrs said he would like the new organization to start chapters at high schools and provide internships and part-time jobs for future technicians.
In 1994 and 1995, SAE surveyed 500 to 700 service technicians, shop owners, educators and others to gauge interest in a professional organization for technicians and the service level it should provide.
Most favored formation of the professional group, Mr. Heyler said.
Annual membership dues are $40. Charter members who join before the end of 1996 will not owe dues until March 1998.
For more information or to apply for membership, call Darlene Filler at 1-800-787-9596.