I generally don’t encounter people who think the auto repair business is an easy one. Quite the opposite, in fact. Many talk about the hardships – the skinned knuckles, the sore backs after hours of standing (or crouching) under a car, the cold in the winter, the wet in the spring, the heat in the summer…
And while most of the complaints are legitimate, they tend to ignore all the great rewards that come with the trade – the relationships you build, the technical knowledge you acquire, and the enjoyment of using your talents to solve complex problems. On top of all that, you’re relatively well compensated, in a field that is always hungry for more workers. You’ll never be out of a job!
In the grand scheme of things, professional development has been pretty easy for you. You’ve had the opportunity to attend high school shop classes, a post-secondary trade school, and ongoing technical training courses at work. You’ve also had access to manuals, trade publications, and online forums. There’s no doubt that Canada is indeed a land of opportunity.
Unfortunately for many around the world, those kinds of opportunities are not so easy to come by.
One way for you to address that injustice is to find a way to start giving back.
I’m not referring to returning the socket set you “borrowed” from a co-worker a couple of years ago. I’m talking about helping people who face a real challenge getting started in this trade.
That can take many forms. Some people give money to a trade school. Others will donate equipment or automobiles. As for me, I’ve elected to share my knowledge with technicians in foreign countries who don’t have the opportunities I’ve enjoyed as a Canadian.
In the summer of 2011, I took a leap out of my comfort zone and found myself teaching automotive technology halfway around the world, in a rural area of Mozambique. It was a positive experience that I will never forget. The people I encountered welcomed me. I worked beside them, guiding them, and doing my best to ensure that the techniques I shared would help them build a better life for themselves.
That trip lasted five weeks, and, yes, there were some sacrifices on the home front. I missed my wife and kids, but managed to keep in touch via email and the occasional phone call.
Earlier this year, I embarked on another training trip. This one was a little closer to home. I traveled to the Mexican Baja Peninsula, where conditions were much easier than they were in Africa. The goal remained the same – share knowledge to help others improve their lives. I spent a week working with amazing people, doing my best to share what I’ve learned over the course of my career in the automotive trade.
In addition to the time away from home, these types of trips come with a financial obligation. But isn’t life about the journey and experiences along the way? If I can help others because of the opportunities afforded me, isn’t that a positive goal?
Words fail to explain the personal satisfaction that comes when someone genuinely says, “Thank you for making this trip so I could learn.” You don’t get the same sense of fulfillment doing your daily work. This, I assure you.
Knowledge is power. By teaching people how automotive systems work, you help them develop skills that will change their lives – quite similar to the way your life was changed when you entered this trade here in Canada.
Isn’t it time to give something back? You’ll be so glad you did.
Todd Green is a former technician who has written the “Grumpy Mechanic” column on automotive repair for the Calgary Herald. He’s also an automotive instructor, and a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.