TO THE EDITOR:
Regarding "A new tool to help fill the service tech gap," autonews.com, Jan. 24: The excuse that there is a grease-and-dirt image is gone. In meeting with potential students and parents, I have never heard that mentioned. No one seems to look deeply into the nonpopular underlying issues. You'd be surprised at some of the numbers. Many auto tech students have been placed in dealerships and, lo and behold, two or three years down the road, they have left the industry altogether. Why?
Some start as maintenance techs and, because they fill a need, are left in that position and pay. Eventually, they leave. Explain to a prospective student that, yes, the dealer charges $120 or more per hour, but you are only getting a few dollars an hour above minimum wage. Oh yeah, bring your own tools; don't make a mistake; and we'll pay you less to start than the job you had before.
Go work for a large dealership group and pay for your uniforms and insurance; work with broken equipment and the cost-cutting ideas from management that eventually affect your pay. Soon, going to an aftermarket shop that pays better and has better benefits seems like a good idea. Or get good at fixing the difficult, problem-child vehicles and watch your flat-rate hours go down. How about flat-rate in general? Are there techs making big bucks? Yep. But getting to that level takes a lot of commitment, time and being in the right shop.
MARK SPISAK, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, N.C. The writer is an instructor in the college's Transport Systems Technologies Division and has more than 40 years of experience in the auto industry.