This article is part of an ongoing series to highlight and promote the technician career — demonstrating to kids, parents, and teachers how becoming a technician is a rewarding career path that can be lucrative and open the door to many opportunities within the industry.
Name: Craig T.
Job Title: Automotive Technician
Industry Experience: 14 Years
Technician Spotlight: Craig T.
How did you get started in the automotive industry?
I started in the early 2000s, and was big into tuner culture. It was something I was highly interested in, even before I had a driver’s license. Naturally, I thought I would make a career out of it, and that’s exactly what I did. I guess you could say it was something I always knew I was going to do. When I went to high school, I enrolled in the automotive technology class, and I put a lot of effort into it. I graduated from high school, and had a $70,000 scholarship, which I used for more schooling. I started in a tire shop when I was 17, which was my first legal employment in the industry. When I was 19, I got a job at a GM dealership. From there, I did fleet for about five years. I became a lead technician at the shop pretty quickly. They gave me a chance to work on a lot of different things — from cars to heavy trucks. That’s where I learned diesel diagnostics, and it helped a lot. I left the fleet shop about six months ago, and I am now working for an independent shop. They specialize in transmissions, and it’s been really great so far.
What is your favorite part of being a technician?
The variation in the work you do. You’re never going into the same thing every single day. That can get tedious. It’s a challenging industry, and there are a lot of mind-bending tasks to do. This makes it enjoyable, and makes the day go by quickly. Being able to take things apart and put them back together is a great challenge.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone looking to enter the industry?
You’re going to get out of it what you put in. It’s not a standard 8-5 job. If you want to learn, grow, and move up the ladder, you need to take training classes. Pay attention to the people around you, and try to determine who really knows what they’re talking about. Pick up as many things as you can from as many people as possible. Everybody has specialties in this industry, and things they are good at. The more you can learn, the more you’re going to grow. This is especially true on the technical side. There is so much variation. You have to be a sponge, and willing to pick up everything you can.
What has being a technician taught you the most?/ What skills has your career given you?
I would definitely say critical thinking, learning electronics, and time management is a big one. Time is money in this industry, regardless if you’re hourly, flat rate, salary, or commission. The goal is always to be as efficient as you can. It can be harder at times than others. Money management is big as well, especially when you’re flat rate. It teaches you how crucial it is for you to be efficient and learn quickly so you can make your paycheck and earn a living.
What do you wish more people, especially high schools, knew about the profession?
It’s not easy, and I know that sounds kind of odd. This is a profession that deserves highly intelligent and talented people. These are not the same cars that were on the road in the 80’s, 90’s, or even 10 years ago. This technology evolves so quickly. At the same time, these vehicles are still very much mechanical as well. You may have someone who thrives with electronics and computers, but there are still plenty of mechanical repairs to do in this industry. I’m sure there are people who are intimidated to get into this profession who are good with their hands. Maybe they’re not tech-savvy, but there’s still plenty of work.
What can shops and schools do better to prepare students when joining the industry?
Try to help students find out what they would thrive in. Embrace the strengths, and work on their weaknesses. Guide them along the lines of what they’re really going to be working on. There’s definitely going to be a difference in someone who is specializing in a BMW program than a GM program. Educate them so they know what to expect at their first dealership or independent shop. Then, they can really hit the ground running to be efficient, make a paycheck, and make their employer a paycheck. Employers put a lot on the line when they hire someone new, and that can be a hefty risk.
If you knew a kid that wanted to go into the industry, but his parents or teachers were telling them to go into a four-year college, what would you tell the parents?
Not just in this trade, but trades in general. There are thousands upon thousands of jobs needing to be filled. The more you can show people how important of an industry this is, the better. This is a secure profession, and that weighs a lot these days. I don’t know too many trades who struggled last year. I worked the entire time. The cost of college nowadays has gone up exponentially over the years. That’s a hefty weight to bear for an 18-year-old.
Any final thoughts?
This is a challenging, but rewarding industry to be in if you are willing to put the work in. Aspire to be the best you can and you will continuously make progress.