There are jobs and then there are careers. Diagnosing and repairing modern vehicles is a demanding career, not just a time-killing job. The sooner everyone in the automotive repair industry recognizes this, the better. I've been covering the auto repair industry since 1976. If that work history constantly reinforces one thing, it's the concept that automotive repair persons must be “career technologists.” This phrase depicts an employee who embraces and masters the common technology of the day. In case you haven't noticed, the complexity of vehicles has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years—let alone the 38 years since I began reporting on the trade. To be fair, a competent technician need not master modern technology in the sense of the chemical engineer who masters a manufacturing process. However, today's competent tech must know enough to—at the very least—cope with the complexities of today's cars and trucks. The modern tech copes the same way good ones always have coped: He or she uses the proper procedures and equipment to diagnose systems accurately the first time. This approach makes solid business sense, too, because “fixed right the first time” boosts technician efficiency. Maximizing tech efficiency is an integral part of building a profitable service department. Coping with constantly evolving technology requires a tech to know proper diagnostic and repair procedures. That requires the dedication and focus of a career technologist—not some short-sighted knuckle-dragger who wants to clock out at 5 every afternoon. No, if you're going to cope with technology today, the first thing you recognize is that you're never done learning. Rather, constant learning is part and parcel of one's career. A boss may doubt the need for constant learning. If so, drop in on some of the classes technicians attend today. Note the variety of systems and range of information techs are expected to learn. Appreciate and respect the time and effort necessary for today's techs to absorb this information. Understand that once they absorb a seminar's material, it's guaranteed there's more new information coming next year. It takes a steady, mature, dedicated person to meet this challenge. The “clock-watcher” employee rarely, if ever, meets the challenge. Also note that some techs are mature by the age of 25. Others may not reach this maturity until later in life. There are a variety of ways to learn any topic, including automotive diagnosis. Many techs thrive on the immediacy and interaction of traditional classes or in-house training with fellow techs. Others prefer home study with books, DVDs and the Internet. Still other techs enjoy a mix of all these approaches. Regardless of the preferred approach, ongoing learning requires dedication and maturity—again, the traits of the career technologist. Suppose a worker aspires to be a career technologist. If so, I hope owners and managers financially support this aspiration. That means investing in ongoing training and its related costs such as travel expenses. Then support it by charging labor fees that reflect the level of skill and knowledge diagnosis requires. The aspiring technologist also must get adequate support at home. A spouse and family must realize that career-focused professionals have to commit a minimum amount of time to learning and update training. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals are accustomed to this routine. Successful automotive career pros must do likewise. If nothing else, the career technologist's family should appreciate that knowledge fosters job security. What's more, the industry can't outsource the career technologist's work to a foreign country.
Techs: Embrace a pro career or get out
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