There are several very good specialized automotive training schools, and many community colleges and tech schools offer associate degree programs in auto technology. However, it is hard to simulate in the classroom the experience that most auto mechanics will have at their first job in a repair shop. Automotive technology classes and programs offer important introductory training in auto repair, but students who combine classroom training with apprenticeship at a commercial repair facility will give themselves an advantage in getting their first jobs as auto repair technicians.
Classroom auto tech programs provide important training and skill development that are a foundation for the knowledge base of an auto tech. This includes basic hand tools use, proper vehicle lifting, shop safety, chemical spill containment and cleanup, and power tool and shop equipment use. An introductory program will provide training in the various vehicle systems including, brakes, steering and suspension, engine, drive train, air conditioning, electrical systems, vehicle electronics, and engine performance. A good training program can offer a broad and comprehensive overview of vehicle systems and service procedures, but in a limited class period and in an often sterile school workshop environment it is hard to replicate the dirty, unpredictable world of auto repair.
A job as an auto mechanic apprentice provides a valuable experience giving the student a chance to see how a working repair facility operates and how a business runs. In a working shop setting an apprentice will get to experience a real automotive repair shop environment, see real-time job completion, witness customer interaction, see the work flow from vehicle drop-off to pick-up, and get to see real-world vehicle problems that are hard to simulate effectively in a shop class situation.
Automotive education programs usually have as part of their curriculum an internship credit which can offer the student credit toward a certificate or degree program for holding a part-time or full-time job as auto mechanic apprentice. This experience is highly valuable as an introductory position in automotive repair. The responsibility of the apprentice will primarily be to observe and assist repair technicians and then begin doing basic vehicle services starting with vehicle inspections and oil changes. More responsibilities will be given as skills are learned providing a solid introduction to automotive repair work.
In my experience at small repair shops there is always a need for an apprentice level employee and it is a mutually beneficial employment situation. The repair shop gets an inexpensive worker making probably only minimum wage, and someone who can do various jobs around the shop including cleaning and running errands which allows the higher skilled and higher paid technicians to be kept busy doing vehicle service work. The apprentice gets a paid trainee position for which he or she may also receive credit towards completion of a degree or training certificate, and gets valuable introductory work experience that will help prepare for a first job as an automotive repair technician.
Photo courtesy of: Automotive Training Institute (ATI)