Tuesday, December 13, 2022 | December 2022
Inspiring the New Generation of Technicians
by Emily Kline
ANDREW SEXTON, OWNER OF ATS AUTOMOTIVE IN CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, discovered his passion for working on cars through his dad. When Sexton was a kid, his dad was always down in their garage working on family cars. They did not have enough money in the budget to have someone else do it, so Sexton helped his dad by handing him tools and trying to stay out of his way when he was working on certain things. According to Sexton, his dad “always told me not to become a mechanic and that’s exactly what I did.” The experiences Sexton had with his dad are what fortified his passion for cars and led him to become the great mechanic and shop owner of ATS automotive that he is today. Without his father’s mentorship, Sexton’s path could have gone in a completely different direction. This can be said about a lot of technicians. Many discovered their passion and career path by having a dedicated mentor.
Mentorship is a key factor in raising the next generation's group of technicians. Now more than ever, the need for technicians is at an all-time high, and mentorship is something that the automotive industry desperately needs to stay afloat. Sexton believes that a cause of the technician shortage is the lack of comradery between veterans and newbies. “When I was younger and I was just starting off at the dealership, a lot of guys were on flat rate. They did not want to help the young guys [and] we had to claw our way up to learn.” The technician shortage grew due to this lack of comradery, and the automotive industry found that fewer people were finding a passion for cars because they were not given the opportunity to discover it through mentorships.
Despite this, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Sexton finds that because the shortage of technicians has grown to a surmounting high, the culture in the shop has changed. “Everybody's much more willing to show people stuff and teach because so many people are [leaving] the industry.” As older technicians are retiring, many people are finding that a lot of information is being lost, and so, in addition to the shift in culture, information has become more accessible as a necessity for new technicians to learn the ropes. Sexton comments, “I think that's kind of the great thing about technology. It has allowed us to have YouTube, and just all these guys that put a lot of information out there that everybody can learn, and it doesn't necessarily cost a whole lot and there's a lot of technicians out there who have paid training and it's phenomenal.” In regards to the cost of training, Sexton asks that people “be willing to pay for and go to it.” Training ensures that shop technicians stay ahead of trends and can respond to the trends in the market. By using technology, taking advantage of paid training, and re-discovering the culture that forges mentorships, Andrew hopes the shortage problem can be fixed, or at least become less drastic.
A fantastic way to bridge the gap between the information seasoned technicians hold, and the information newbie technicians need, is by taking advantage of educational conferences like MWACA’s upcoming VISION Expo in March. VISION offers networking opportunities, product display, and opportunities to learn through the multiple courses offered during the conference.
Sexton believes the automotive industry “is changing so rapidly that you have to be open to learn every day,” and VISION is a perfect opportunity to make sure new technicians are getting the knowledge they need to be successful in the automotive industry. Not only that, but the opportunity for networking at VISION can help build a better culture between newbies and vets by setting up an opening for mentorship, and even instill a passion for the automotive industry in the next generation. Sexton’s biggest advice for a newbie is “to always be open to learning.” He says, “In just about any career or job that you're, at it’s important to continue moving forward. And if you're not learning, you aren’t moving forward.” And MWACA’s VISION conference is a great resource to make sure “you’re moving forward.”
In addition to the many opportunities VISION offers new technicians and mechanics, VISION also supplies education and information about the new trends in the aftermarket for seasoned veterans. With ADAS and EV’s becoming more prevalent than ever, it is important for shops to learn how to handle the new systems safely and accurately. When asked about his own experiences with the changing market Sexton “hadn't really been seeing a lot of ADAS type work and now we're really starting to see a lot of vehicles coming in that need ADAS calibrations.” Because of this shift in what his shop has been seeing, now more than ever, he knows the importance of “learn[ing] new techniques in order to keep new vehicles on the road.”
When asked about how he felt about the changing trends, Sexton could only express feelings of excitement. “I'm super excited - I’m going to be just like a kid in a candy store. Sexton’s outlook on what many view as daunting is hopeful and refreshing. His positive attitude and openness to learn new things is proof that when someone is passionate about their work, it’s not hard to find enjoyment in what they do. His work ethic shows that mentoring is important and often ensures a successful career. So, if you’re looking for a way to find a mentor, or simply rediscover your passion for the automotive industry visit MWACA’s VISION Hi-Tech Training Expo in March.
General Service Technician Academy at VISION
If you are growing your own technician and want to get them a head-start to profitably and safely begin generating revenue for your shop, The General Service Technician Academy (GSTA) is one of the first industry events they should attend.
The first-ever GSTA event will be held at the 2023 VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo.
- OSHA Safety Trainin
- Lift Safety and Proper Methods
- Fluids & Oil
- Tire Repair & Safety
- Basic TPMS
- Alignment Theory and Basics
- Basic A/C
- Vehicle Inspections & DVI’s
- Basic Electricity Fundamentals
Find out more information at www.visionkc.com