Over the past few years, there has been concern expressed that our society was not breeding nearly enough “gearheads,” “motorheads,” and “autophiles” to man the apprenticeship programs, service bays, and parts counters of the future.
And though it may be true that the gulf between the retiring generation and those who will fill their roles remains a concern, I’d like to put at least one aspect of this discussion to rest: If there are insufficient entrants to the trade, it most certainly is not because today’s cars are boring.
Or, I should add, that the technology they carry somehow locks out young enthusiasts, preventing them from exploring automotive technology in a way equivalent to what the previous generations might have done, with little more than a decent set of hand tools and a rough understanding of what makes an engine run.
With today’s sophisticated engine controls, it can be easy to mistakenly think that modern vehicles are somehow less accessible. I’m not quite sure where this idea causes the most harm – perhaps in the minds of guidance councillors, or in the parents of that child who is “good with his hands” – but the reality is that more systems are accessible to more individuals than ever before. With current state-of-the-art, plug-and-play programmers, you don’t even need access to a garage to ramp up the horsepower. In our increasingly crowded urban environments, where neighbours are inclined to call city inspectors any time they see a car in pieces on a driveway, this provides a whole new set of learning opportunities for a new generation of enthusiasts.
And the good ones may even become tomorrow’s repair shop owners as well as skilled technicians. One other boon for tomorrow’s techs is that modern, knowledge-based modifications are clean: the need for brawn and tolerance for grimy working conditions that still permeates the image of the tech no longer holds true. This opens it up to an entirely new population of young men and women with the desire and the smarts to work on cars.
And what cars they will be working on! While there is still ample excitement for today’s crop of muscle cars (did you ever think you’d see a 700-plus horsepower muscle car like the Dodge Challenger available for sale to the general public?), there’s a whole raft of hybrid technologies and related vehicle systems on the road today.
One of the most incredible shifts of recent times has been the metamorphosis of hybrid technology from the realm of the Birkenstock-shod environmentalist to the foundation of virtually every luxury exotic being offered for sale today. Due to the proximity of my home to a Tesla dealership and the fact that I live close to where some real money lives, rarely does a day go by that I don’t see a Tesla Model S or two. And the other day, I saw an ultra-sleek BMW i8 roll by, silent but for the sound of its tires hitting the road. It was awesome.
Setting aside the challenges those technologies might signal for the aftermarket for the moment, if those cars don’t get a person excited, well, maybe they’re not meant to be in this business.
Turning enthusiasm into a career is always a challenge, but it’s a challenge we can meet if we keep that excitement in mind when we talk about this industry. True, not every workday embodies the excitement of a rocket launch, but some do – and those in a position to welcome new hires this fall should keep that excitement in mind when building work plans for apprentices and others joining this industry.
There’s some really cool stuff going on in this industry. Don’t let them forget it.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor email@example.com
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