Future Graduations

As experienced and polite car fans, during this Graduation Season I’m interested in your opinions on how you would advise a new High School Freshman interested in an automotive future?

Not everybody has the interest, drive or finances to be a University Engineering graduate but some do.

Likewise, there’s a real shortage of skilled mechanics so they’re finally getting the respect and pay that they deserve.

So looking into the future, what would your advice today be to your 14 year old self?

I regret not learning at a younger age the fact that many (most) employers treat their employees as a disposable commodity, and that when working for such a company, I should return the favor.

Similarly, the best advice I could give any young person is to be willing to job hop in search of better pay while you are still young. Once you reach a certain age, job hopping looks bad, and will harm your chances of being hired at a good company. However, spending too many years working for below-market pay will permanently lower your earning capacity for the rest of your career. While you are still young, one should always be on the lookout for better opportunities, and not let misplaced “loyalty” keep them from taking advantage of those opportunities.


A past coworker, a mechanical technician, used to be a car mechanic. He was complaining about the poor pay for his tech job, and I asked why he didn’t go back to automotive repair. He said the hourly pay was higher, but it was difficult to get 40 hours a week. If there wasn’t any work at the repair shop, he was sent home and didn’t get paid. I suspect that many young automobile mechanics would face the same problem. If he prefers working with his hands, three fields come to mind: electrician, plumber and HVAC tech. One of my college friends left after 2 years to become a marine HVAC tech in the NYC harbor. The money was great and there was always work. Electricians and plumbers get decent pay and benefits while they are apprentices. Eventually, he could own his own business. The owner of the HVAC business that installed the heating/AC systems in my neighborhood is a neighbor. If he can afford to live in my neighborhood, he’s doing very well.


Since my son is 14, I’ll tell you what I tell him. Find something you like to do, something that interests you, something you’re good at, and go into that field. I don’t care what you do, but you damn well better make yourself among the best in whatever you choose. If you just go to work to punch a clock and get a paycheck you’ll never amount to anything.

He has absolutely no interest in things automotive.


In High School I took auto shop and then went into a more specialized part of the automotive area at the local Vocational Skills Center which was founded by another school district and still part of them but opened up their school to about 20+ high schools that otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer auto tech or Auto Body. If you wanted to continue in that field you could apply some credits at either the community college or a pair of Voc Tech’s in Tacoma (30mi away) and go for a degree and ASE Cert. At 14 so many think they know what they want to do but then by 18 you might be looking in a different direction. My brother wanted to design mega yachts and ended up eventually as a registered nurse. Dad dreamed of becoming the next Cousteau until he moved from another college to the Oregon coast and saw the boat he’d be heading out on, went into chemistry instead.

A family friend told his son that as long as he’s enjoying his career the money isn’t as important. His son decided he’d rather put all those hours into his music instead of going for a degree, so far it’s worked out for him.

Fourteen is a bit young to be marking a career path but if I knew then what I know now I would have headed in another direction.
In high school I was torn between 2 paths; artist and electrical engineering. After graduation and some serious thinking leading up to it I decided both were out but would have gone with electrical engineering. Saw too many “starving artists” ads on TV…

Based on some crap automotive electrical engineering it seems to me that car makers need to improve in that area.

Whatever the kid does, they need to be taught about money. Too many people just don’t understand how capitalism works, how debt works, how taxes work, and how investments can multiply. They also don’t understand how debt can be both good and bad.


I always enjoyed driving. I may not enjoyed, the hours, or the particular company or boss I had, but I always enjoyed the driving, the sights and sense of freedom. I would not enjoy it today, with global positioning satellites on every truck, the know your speed and location every minute, you may as well be chained to an assembly line.

The only advice I have for a young man today is do what you enjoy. I had a friend, years ago that told me he found his job depressing he had been a bowl surgeon at a local cancer institute for 15 years. It amazed me that through all his years of training, the possibility had not occurred to him.

The only advice I could give is to be trustworthy. Don’t go out of your way to cause disasters when the boss turns his back.

As far as skills go, I say to never stop learning. You have to keep up with technical changes. Don’t panic when under pressure or some wild decisions will happen.

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I’m torn on the advice I would give.

I jumped into auto mechanics after high school. I started with a great full time 2-year automotive program in Boston, and then worked in various garages and in a Chry-Ply dealership.

I loved the work even though some of the working conditions weren’t the best.

After several years, I decided to return to school for an engineering degree. I helped to pay for that schooling by working as a mechanic whenever I could (summers, school vacations, etc).

While I’m glad I pursued the engineering path, I would never trade those first 10 years in auto mechanics for anything. I gained such a confidence in the auto mechanics school, since it was the first time I ever did well in school. And I gained a similar confidence in fixing all-things mechanical, even beyond cars.

I am also appreciative for experiencing the life of a “line mechanic” in a new car dealership. The working environment can be pretty tough.

Skilled auto mechanics are badly needed. I hope the current shortage will lead to better pay and working conditions.

In summary, my message to my 14 year old self would be similar to what others have said. If you enjoy it, then jump in and give it your all to be the best you can be. I would also advocate to never stop learning, and always be ready to use that career as a launching pad in case a future opportunity arises.

That is essentially what my parents told me. My father had to leave high school prematurely, in order to work in his family’s failing business during the Great Depression. W/in a couple of years, their entire chain of stores had closed, and they lost everything. He never got to complete his education, and despite being very intelligent, he spent the rest of his life in retail management, with low compensation.

They told me that whatever I chose to do, I had better make sure that I put in enough effort to be the best at it. I was also advised to budget my money very carefully, spend wisely, and to not take a loan unless it was absolutely essential. All of their advice has served me well.


When I was 29 I applied for the job of Automotive Instructor at Bates Technical College. I was one of 2 final candidates, interviewed with the president of the college. The job went to someone 20 years older than I was. I heard through the grapevine that the president thought I would make a better teacher but that the candidate with more experience was a smarter choice. Bates and Clover Park both have nice facilities. Maybe I should look at going into teaching again? I can’t work in the shop forever! :grinning:


My daughter spends her money as soon as she gets it, my son has got to be one of the thriftiest people I know. Just different personalities.

When he was 9 or 10, we were cleaning up after dinner and I said “OK, everyone in the car, we’re going for ice cream.” He stopped and asked “Can I stay home and have $5 instead?”


Clover Park and Bates are both very good schools, Clover Park last I checked was offering training to work on Hybrid’s.

I attended a country school through 8th grade and then was transferred to a city school. I had to take agriculture in 7th and 8th grade at the country school, even though my family didn’t live on a farm. I had a great agriculture teacher and every month he put a poster up above the chalkboard with a slogan on the poster. The one that sticks out in my mind was this:

If I was advising a high school freshman today about a career in automobiles, I would suggest he learn everything he can about electronics, computers, and robotics. The cars of the future, I believe will be EVs. Self driving vehicles are in the way and EVs are already here.

When I think about the hot rod set of my generation, they were milling the cylinder heads, adding multiple carburetors, etc. Tomorrow’s hot rod set may be rewinding armatures, changing computer chips, etc. I remember back in the 1970s when slot car racing was popular. The boys that raced the slot cars rewound the armatures to make the cars go faster.

I was a math major. When I got a college teaching position in 1965, I realized I needed a specialty. I invested my spare time taking probability and statistics courses which, four years later in 1969 I went back to school to study research design and statistics. I had to use the computer to do statistical analyses. When I completed the degree, I taught a full load of mathematics and statistics courses, and made a 100 mile round trip two nights a week to take computer courses at another institution. I could see back in 1980 that computer science was going to be important. I had colleagues that couldn’t understand why I was taking more coursework. One colleague said to me “You have it made. You have tenure. Why are you knocking yourself out to take more courses beyond your degrees?”
My advice to my students and all young people is to look ahead so you won’t fall behind. You will have a more exciting life if you never think ‘I have it made’ but keep looking ahead for new challenges.


I’ve always found that you do well in something you like - no matter what it is.

Most places around here require some training - usually at least a year of tech school to be hired as a mechanic…most are requiring ASE certification.

I’m not sure what the future will be for a mechanic. Most manufacturers (if not all) are moving toward EV. When and if that happens then I suspect a reduction in mechanics to do that work. A lot of the EV vehicles are basically plug-n-play. If a component fails…just remove it and replace. But it’ll be far easier then most jobs on an ICE vehicle.

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My advice would be to take shop classes whether the kid wants to go into mechanic work or not. Back in the dark ages when I was in school, the general attitude was that only morons who couldn’t get into college took any form of shop class. If you were planning on going to college after high school, you should stay out of the dumb-wing. You got that sentiment from the teachers, fellow students, guidance counsellors, your own parents, etc.

That was a stupid attitude, but I was a dumb kid and so I stayed out of the tech wing like I was told, and instead took AP bio, physics, and chem. I’ve forgotten most of what we learned in those classes, and never used any of it. But meanwhile since I didn’t take any shop classes when they were free, I’ve had to play catchup as an adult with things that need fixing and building. I’d have been much better off with that early instruction just from a saving money through DIY standpoint.

If I were looking at doing mechanical work as a young guy today, I’d probably be aiming toward an A&P license so I could work on airplanes. Those things are gonna be petroleum-powered for a long time to come, especially the commercial ones which will convert to biofuels long before electric is viable for them. And even when they aren’t there are plenty of systems that need to be worked on, and federal regulations that mandate owners have them worked on, unlike cars.

I suspect when electric cars do significantly replace gas cars, owner maintenance in general is going to drop off a cliff because the consequences to not keeping your car well-maintained aren’t going to be as immediate. Go 40,000 miles without changing the oil in a normal car and bad things will probably happen that force you into a shop. Go 40,000 miles without doing any maintenance on an electric car and bad things might happen, but not for many more years, and by that time the owner might just replace the thing instead of having it fixed. I suspect that’s gonna leave a lot of car mechanics standing around without much to do.

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At 14 I would encourage every student to back up their prime interest with lots of computer skills. All of today’s cars have huge amounts of computers controls, tomorrow’s EVs will be wholly computer controlled.


I wonder if the Voc Tech schools are planning to move to EV training if they aren’t already. Clover Park in Tacoma has offered Hybrid training for a few years now. The Nissan Leaf among others still needs some mechanical service but not nearly as much as a Sentra would.


They certainly should if they want to stay relevant and in business.