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The evolution of the professional automotive technician

Automotive training used to be a more common part of our society. Automotive shop classes were commonly offered in many high schools, ensuring that students could become familiar with an automobile’s basic systems

Rob Alfers, Publisher, Auto Atlantic Magazine

Additionally, cars relied more on mechanical principles, rather than today’s computerized systems. As a result, when a car broke down, the owner was much more likely to know how to fix it themselves, or at least have a friend or a family member who could fix it for them. The situation has changed dramatically over the years.

Today’s cars are much more complex, and their owners are much less likely to have had any automotive training and specialized equipment. As a result, dealerships and garages are repairing a higher percentage of cars than ever before, and mechanics’ labour rates have risen in accordance with the increased necessity of their services. Yesterday’s “mechanic” required little more than a screwdriver and wrench, and maybe a little brute strength to ply his trade.

Not so today! Today’s licensed Automotive Technician is a professional able to use specialized equipment and his or her extensive training to successfully tackle even the most complex automotive service and repair challenge.

While it’s true that some technically savvy people can still perform some of the basic routine maintenance on their vehicles like changing their oil etc., problems can arise when the oil change dash light has to be reset, or the tire position must be relearned, or even a complex battery removal can require a trip to an automotive repair shop to properly deal with the problem.

So where does this leave us? Today’s technicians have to be more skilled than ever before to understand the mechanical principles of the automobile, but must also be able understand the electrical and computerized electronics involved. The incorporation of computerized electronics has brought on the birth of the scan tool, an invaluable tool that allows a trained technician to read and see what the computers are “up to”. However, a scan tool has no way of fixing a vehicle itself, unless it is used by a highly trained skilled automotive technician capable of reading and understanding the information revealed by that scan tool.

So how has training changed? In the past, training was centered on knowledge of mechanical systems, basic electronics, and how to work safely around a vehicle. Current automotive training must focus on the specialized complex electronics, the plumbing, the climate control system, and the host of complex computerization now found throughout today’s automobile.

Furthermore, a higher educational entry level and understanding of basic math, science and engineering as well as the computer and internet, has become an important component necessary to become a professional automotive technician today. And last but not least, good communication skills are an essential requirement that technicians need when dealing with customers, parts suppliers and/or other technicians.

Automotive mechanics in the past needed about 40 hours training a year to stay on top of their game. With the complex computerized systems and constantly evolving technology involved with today’s motor vehicle, as well as government environmental and health and safety regulations etc., a professional automotive technician today will need at least 100 hours of professional skills upgrading training a year, just to stay up to date.

Footnote: The Nova Scotia Community College offers in-depth training programs for students wishing to become involved in the Automotive Service Trades as Technicians, Heavy Duty Equipment Technicians or Truck and Transport Mechanics. These trades are among the 49 trades designated under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. Successful graduates will earn a Red Seal affixed to their Provincial Certificate of Qualification, enabling mobility of the tradesperson across Canada without further training or certification.

David Giles may be contacted at the Akerley Campus of NSCC at 1-902-491-7346, or Emailed here.

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