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Automobile Trades - Entrance to the Occupations

( Originally Published 1930 )

The Methods of Entrance.—The apprenticeship scheme which is in practice in some of the other trades and industries is not found to a great extent in this group of trades. A boy who wishes to become an auto-mobile mechanic can do so by following one of two methods. He may enter a general garage or a service station as a beginner, and he may learn the trade by observing the mechanics and by assisting them at their various jobs. He may also gain a basic knowledge of the technical and practical side of the work by attending the classes in automobile mechanics which are conducted at the part-time vocational school and the technical high school or trade school. Those boys who are thinking of becoming automobile painters or electricians or who are desiring to work in a body-building shop either as trimmers, blacksmiths, sheet-metal men, or glass installers also may secure some knowledge of the fundamentals of these lines of work at the same schools. Employers prefer to hire boys who have had some training and who have an understanding of the principles underlying the work of these trades. Boys of this type are desired because they do not require a great deal of supervision, and they can be taught much more easily and quickly to do the required work. It is advisable, therefore, to gain some knowledge about the trade operations and processes during the years of school attendance. The learning period, when wages are comparatively low, will thus be shortened.

The Required Education.—The educational requirements for entrance to these trades were not very high in the past, but the standard is being raised gradually. Practically all of the employers prefer those who are graduates of the eighth grade, while for some of the jobs high-school graduates are desired. It has been found that many service managers are graduates of high schools. The boys who wish to enter these occupations should be able to read, write, and spell well; and they should also have a knowledge of arithmetic. They must fulfill these requirements in order to be able to do their work well. The automobile mechanic will be able to do better work, and promotion will be more rapid if he gains a knowledge of elementary physics and the principles of gasoline-engine construction before he enters the trade. The electrician should have some information about the principles of electricity, and he should have a specialized training in automobile electrical work. He should be able to apply the knowledge gained in school if he wishes to secure any advancement in this field of work. The automobile painter need not have any special educational qualifications, while the prospective trimmer will find that a knowledge of mechanical drawing and sheet-metal work will be of value to him in learning the trade. The blacksmith should be thoroughly familiar with the properties of different kinds of steel, and he should also know how to heat it so as to get the best results. A course in metallurgy may be of benefit to him. The sheet-metal worker and the woodworker need not have any special education, but they should know the principles underlying the work of their trades. These principles can be learned at the schools which teach the work of the occupations.

The Age of Entrance.—Most employers prefer boys of eighteen or more even as beginners at the work. This is due to the fact that older boys are more steady and can be trusted with responsibilities. Customers also have more confidence in the older boys and prefer to have them work on their cars. Although some employers will hire boys of sixteen, they will not allow them to do any work which requires a great deal of care and application. Since older boys are given the preference when jobs are open, it is best to spend the time until one reaches eighteen at school, where many things can be learned which will be of value in later life.

Personal Characteristics.—The ability to handle tools and to work with one's hands is a characteristic which all the mechanics in this group of trades must possess. In addition to this, the automobile mechanic should not have any objections to working with objects that are dirty and greasy at times. He need not be above the average in height and physical strength, but he must have the use of both hands. In order to become a service salesman either in the electrical service station or in the automobile repair shop, the mechanic or the electrician should have the ability to meet people and to talk with them, and he should possess tact. The workers in the other occupations should also have the use of both hands, but no other physical requirements are demanded. Willingness to work, the ability to cooper-ate with others, and a cheerful disposition are qualities which all of these workers should possess if they wish to succeed. The ability to handle men and to manage a shop will in many cases determine whether a man is or is not fitted for promotion.


The Promotional Steps.—The promotional opportunities in the automobile trades are as great as they are in any other group of trades. Due to the fact that the auto-mobile is being used more extensively every day, these occupations are becoming increasingly important, and the demand for skilled men who can take positions of responsibility is growing. The following paragraphs give a brief account of the promotional steps that are open to every one who enters the automobile trades.

In most garages and service stations the beginner's work consists of greasing and lubricating the cars. When he has mastered this work, he is allowed to make minor repairs under the supervision of the foreman or of some mechanic with whom he is working. The next pro-motional step is to the more difficult pieces of work. He may then become assistant foreman and foreman in the shop, or he may be promoted to the position of service salesman. The service salesman has the opportunity to become a service superintendent, in which case he has full charge of all the men who repair and overhaul all cars brought in for such work. He will also supervise the work of those who prepare the new automobiles for the customers. The final goal is that of owner of a general garage or of agent in charge of a service station which represents some manufacturer. Some mechanics have become automobile salesmen and from this position have worked up to that of garage owner.

The automobile painter also does odd jobs when he begins to learn the trade. He cleans the cars as they come into the shop and gets them ready for the next step in the painting process. After he has become proficient at this particular piece of work, and if he shows an interest in the trade, he is allowed to apply the paint remover and to prepare the automobile for the priming coat. Then his advancement is based on how quickly he can become expert at performing the more difficult operations. When he has become a full-fledged painter, his earnings will compare favorably with those of the mechanics in many other trades. Some painters have become fore-men of shops, and others have advanced to the ownership of a shop. A man must be more than an expert painter, however, if he wants to become a shop owner.

The automobile electrician may start as a helper or as an apprentice. In these positions he learns the trade by assisting the older workmen; and as he gains experience, he is allowed to work on jobs by himself. When he has learned the details of the trade, he can become a service man or a bench worker. Then he can become foreman of a shop; and finally, if he has the necessary ability and the personality, he may become the owner of a service station. Comparatively little capital is required to open a shop in which repairs and replacements to the electrical units are made, but adequate trade training and schooling are essential if the shop is to be operated successfully.

The situation in the body-building shops is somewhat different from that in the garages and the electrical service stations. The work is divided among several different trades; and if the shop is not very large, there may be only one or two men in each division. The boy who wishes to learn one of the trades connected with this field may do so by assisting the journeymen in their work. The time it will take to learn one of the trades will depend upon the ability of the boy, his willingness to learn, and the amount of time he spends in the part-time day school or the night school, gaining a knowledge of the technical details of the work. He may then become foreman of his department. Further advancement is based upon his ability to gain a knowledge of the operations performed in the other departments of the shop.

The Value of Education.—The successful man in this field of work must be more than a mechanic with only practical experience as a foundation. He must have, in addition, some general education which will enable him to conduct his business efficiently, and which will fit him to deal with people who come to his place of work to have something done to their automobiles. All of these mechanics should have some technical education which will tell them the whys and the wherefores of their trade processes. Every boy who wishes to be an executive or high official should know something about salesmanship and, selling methods; he should have a thorough knowledge of English so as to be able to express himself clearly to his customers; he should be familiar with the principles of bookkeeping and office management; and he should know how to advertise his business. The subjects mentioned above, a knowledge of which is essential to success in the modern commercial world, can best be mastered by attending an educational institution where they are taught. It is difficult to learn something about them by mere observation of others. The man who has studied them will find that the knowledge he has gained will be of great value, because it will enable him to fill the higher positions in a satisfactory manner. If he desires to be an owner and in turn to hire men to work for him, he will be able to operate his shop efficiently and profitably as the result of this combination of practical experience and general education.

It is possible to secure both the required technical and general education in the schools of this community. The general education can be secured in the high schools and in the part-time vocational school if there is one. Classes in the technical side of automobile work are conducted by the part-time vocational school and the technical high school or trade school in the daytime as well as in the evenings. The night high schools, the extension divisions of the universities, and the night vocational schools also offer courses along commercial lines. The facilities for broadening one's education after the industrial world has been entered are ample enough to satisfy the needs of all.

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