In the 1940s, when North America was first becoming car-dependent, a young man (for it usually was men) who wanted to pursue an auto mechanic career did not necessarily seek out a training course. At that time, it made just as much sense to simply seek out an entry-level position in a garage. The pendulum, however, seems to have permanently swung in the opposite direction. Let's consider some of the factors that have normalized higher education for auto technicians over the past twenty years.
1. The electronic revolution
More than any other factor, the shift from mechanical to electronic components has increased the need for auto mechanic college.
Prior to the 1990s, mechanical aptitude was probably the premier skill required when it came to fixing cars. The more skilled you were with your hands, the better. If you really wanted to stand out as a star employee in the 40s, you would have been well advised to learn some machinist skills. In those days, mechanics were sometimes required to make their own parts, as replacement parts were not as easy to come by as they are now. Soldering, welding, these were the sought after skills of the time.
2. The tools of the trade cost more nowadays
Graduates of auto mechanic college today need much more than a wrench and a lathe. They need to know how to use sophisticated technology such as a dynamometer, a kind of indoor treadmill for ailing cars, that is not likely to be found in your average hobbyist's home garage.
The tools introduced in an auto mechanic course these days include:
- automatic lifts
- wheel balancers
- electronic diagnostic tools
By the time they graduate from college, students need to fully grasp the computerized tools of the trade. Instead of interacting directly with the vehicle, they will be interacting with it via a third party: technology.
3. The industry is changing
The car industry has surprised many by putting its nose to the grindstone and looking for cleaner transportation solutions to satisfy today's more climate-conscious consumers. The mechanics of tomorrow may find themselves servicing a different breed of vehicle entirely. It may belong to a car-share program, and, therefore, see more use in less time. It may be electric or hybrid, and require different know-how. Increasingly, graduates of an auto mechanic course may be asked to convert existing vehicles to cleaner technologies.
Auto mechanic college can open aspiring technicians' eyes to the changes coming in the future, and, in some cases, help them capitalize on these changes by encouraging them to develop a niche.
For these reasons and more, the car repair industry has forever changed. Making an auto mechanic career today is not at all what it was like, sixty, seventy years ago, and an auto mechanic college may be the best place for an aspiring technician to learn the trade.