AKRON (March 9, 2001)—Let´s tip our hats to vocational schools that are promoting positive, professional images among their automotive students.
But on the other hand, if a local school´s automotive program doesn´t encourage positive self-images, attend an advisory board meeting and demand to know why.
Regular Tire Business readers know I believe in doing everything possible to boost a tech´s self-image. Field experience has convinced me that too many techs out there are laboring with serious cases of low self-esteem. How can we expect from them excellence—not to mention a cheery disposition—when we´re telegraphing that we think techs are dirt beneath our feet?
So I´m understandably enthused when I encounter teachers and schools that make a concerted effort to improve self-image.
Allow me to cite just two examples of the excellent work some schools are doing. After all the criticisms I´ve made of poor-performing schools, it´s time to acknowledge some that are making changes for the better. By the way, don´t hesitate to tell me about schools near you that are doing a good job of grooming young professionals.
First, the stellar Weaver Education Center in Greensboro, N.C., sets the tone for professionalism with one of the brightest, cleanest facilities I have ever visited. The fact that the automotive department is so clean tells me Weaver students are learning that working in an unavoidably dirty trade doesn´t mean you have to wallow in filth.
What´s more, the aged, worthless, eyesore vehicles that I´m used to seeing at vocational schools are conspicuously absent from Weaver´s shops and storage areas.
As you travel, note the number of auto repair shops that are still littered with scrap vehicles. They haven´t learned yet that the junkyard look doesn´t promote a professional image or solid self-esteem in employees.
Finally, there´s a mirror at every wash station inside Weaver´s automotive department. Above each mirror is a sign that asks: "Would you hire this person?´´
Bravo, Weaver! Force students to evaluate their self-image every time they wash up! Prompt them to begin taking responsibility for improving their own appearance.
The second example I want to cite is the West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton, Wash. A simple sign at the entrance to the automotive classroom cautions students, "NO HATS!´´
Some readers may chortle at this because many of their employees are already wearing a backward baseball cap. Others may scream that they´re over the edge worrying about ball caps when so many other issues face the automotive repair industry.
But I think it´s high time someone took a stand against this slovenly, wholly negative look.
You may think it´s not hurting your dealership. OK, if it´s not hurting your store´s image, tell me just how does the backward cap boost worker self-esteem?
How does the backward cap convince consumers that your techs are worth a $100 per hour labor rate? What about your business does the backward cap improve?
Try doing some image-association tests with the person in the street. I´ll guarantee you the average person associates backward caps with rap, drugs, violence and rebellion.
Whether your dealership is in a city or a rural town, how do these associations build worker self-esteem and promote professionalism at your store? Wake up—they don´t!
So rather than cater to fashion and/or apologize for slovenly appearances, West Sound´s instructors promote positive self-image and a professional appearance from day one.
They go a step further by requiring both students and parents to read and sign a policy statement that defines a professional attitude and positive self-image. Readers, it doesn´t get any better than spelling it out for them!
Among other things, the policy statement defines professionalism as taking pride in personal appearance, being punctual, respecting instructors and fellow students and willingly cleaning up after completing a shop assignment.
Basically, the message is the same one Weaver conveys. Working in a dirty business doesn´t entitle you to look like a bum or to create a slovenly work environment.
Make sure the vocational school near you follows West Sound and Weaver´s example. The approach will pay big dividends for your business and your workers.