The hosts of the reality television series "MythBusters" were challenged to debunk commonly held beliefs usually ingrained by the movies or urban legends.
The automotive aftermarket is dealing with a similar challenge — debunking the myth that tire and vehicle repair jobs are dead-end careers for high school drop-outs.
Those who have bought a new car or SUV in the last few years with their array of onboard computers and driver-assist technology hardly would allow stereotypical "grease monkeys" within 10 feet of their vehicles, considering how much they paid for the cars and how much repairs cost. Tire dealerships and repair shops wouldn't survive long if they did.
Repair businesses need educated, skilled men and women who can deftly operate all the computerized equipment, diagnostic scanners and on-board technologies, as well as have trouble-shooting abilities.
But to lure these skilled workers into the automotive aftermarket requires debunking the myth and promoting the modern reality of the job and all the education and skills needed.
Students training for automotive careers need STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — just as much as those pursuing careers in IT and healthcare. Think about the science and mathematics involved in steering-angle inclination, camber adjustments, tire load ranges and air pressure PSI.
Automotive careers are the best-kept secret, and it should be exposed. There is a plethora of ideas on how to fix the tech shortage. But it all comes down to impressions.
Automotive technicians can make good money (and they will usually stay at a shop that pays well and offers good benefits.)
If a shop offers training and a road map for advancement, technicians can move up to store management or even open their own businesses.
Today's incoming generation of workers is concerned about having a planned career path, so it's up to business owners to develop such a road map and set goals with each employee. Abandoning a new hire on the lube rack for a few years is no longer an option.
Not only can this help attract new technicians, it also can help keep the good technicians who have been working for a business for years. There are dealerships that have low turnover and companies that have been rated "best places to work" by employees, so they must be doing something right to build a positive workplace culture.
It's up to the automotive aftermarket to dispel the antiquated image of the "grease monkey" and create a positive impression on the next generation of employees.
Visit high schools, offer career day tours of the shop, provide mentoring or apprenticeships, invest in training employees, offer competitive pay, establish a positive culture in the workplace, develop career road maps with employees and help them achieve those goals.
These are just some of the suggestions offered by industry experts to make "automotive/tire technician" a more attractive job — and encourage the good ones to stay with your company.