It is that time of year – Grad.
Time to celebrate but also time to make some tough decisions. Hopefully some new grads will choose my trade. I am pushing 60 and have worked in this trade for 30 years. I will need to retire soon but like many trades the demographics of automotive technicians is old! The people standing in line to take our places are few and far between.
The automobile was a fascination of mine as high school came and went – me and a lot of others at the time. I understand it is not the fascination of so many nowadays. I don’t really understand why but did I say I was old?
My high school had an auto shop and in my Grade 12 year I had three blocks of eight that I spent there. My other courses were sciences, math and the bare minimum of arts. I had to go to university, at least that is what my parents wanted me to do. I guess I would have been considered a compliant teenager.
I made the easy decision then to stay in school. Engineering was going to be my career. First stop Selkirk College. An engineering degree in my day required five years of university. I took six.
Got a bit side tracked. For three years I wanted to quit (engineering school was boring and impractical) and the last three years I just wanted to finish. Then I could in some way engineer vehicles for a living.
Well, when it comes to career choices timing is everything. When I started in engineering in 1979-80 engineering jobs were plentiful. Grads could choose where they wanted to work.
In 1984 when I walked off the campus degree in hand only 12 of 120 UBC mechanical engineers had a job to go to. Neither Porsche, nor Volkswagen, not even Chrysler wanted me. I tell myself they didn’t want anybody. Probably that is not true.
Luckily I had a back up plan. I could fix cars. When the making-new-cars business is down the fixing-old-cars business is up. I went to an import auto repair shop near where I lived when I went to university and asked to be an apprentice. “Do you have any tools?” said the owner. You can start tomorrow. I never looked back.
The automobile is a marvel of technology. Probably the best example of engineering in our world today. Fixing them for a living has always provided me the challenge I desire.
Technology is changing at a fast pace. The personal fascination with automobiles may be waning but most of us will continue to use them to get around. I am pretty sure there will be a lot of good automotive technician careers left before all these vehicles become able to fix themselves.
Just in case though be flexible in your career choices. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org