A Case for the Trades - Why I Wrench

How I went from aspiring engineer to automotive technician.

Most adolescents nowadays are brainwashed into believing that college is the only way to succeed in the modern world. Within this mindset, trades are left behind. Those that keep the world running are forgotten; left behind like an unwanted pet.

On multiple occasions, I was told that I was "too smart" to work on cars, or that it was a waste of my brain. Ever since I was in middle school, I was hell-bent on becoming an engineer. It's what I had been told I should pursue, and as I looked into it more it just made sense.

High school came around, I was on the path of pursuing that field. I went to a school that focused on technology and arts; I was there on the technology side of things. I felt like I belonged where I was.

With the school also focusing on arts, I started to dive into those fields. A graphic design class here, a photography class there, I expanded my horizons. During my sophomore year, I picked up a camera during one of my graphic design classes and started capturing the environment surrounding me. The instructor of the class saw what I had created, and encouraged me to pursue it more. This got me out of the mindset that I was bound to engineering; it taught me that I had more in me that I didn't know about.

My early captures weren't much to rave about, but it opened me up to a new world.

My early captures weren't much to rave about, but it opened me up to a new world.

Once I hit my junior year and had a car of my own, I had a small tool kit in hand and was wrenching. I came to a realization; I enjoyed what I was doing. I was quick to learn. I could make this into a career.

I started looking into a path to take once I graduated. There was a multitude of options ranging from apprenticeships to fast track programs at local community colleges. I decided on trying to get a job at a local dealership and work my way up from the bottom.

Before I graduated, I had a part-time job at a quick lube place, which served as a foot in the door come time to apply at dealerships. I had some sort of experience, a way to sell myself to a potential employer.

Come September of 2016, I found a job opening at a local Chevrolet dealership. I applied, not expecting much. A day later, I got a call that they wanted to interview me. I was ecstatic; this was an opening to the bigger world of automotive that existed, one that I had my doubts on.

The interview went well, I got an offer, and I took it. I was finally out of the world of shady oil change places, and into what I considered the real world.

Three months into employment at the Chevy dealership; the group which encompassed it and a few other local dealers opened a Subaru store. I had been working as a lube tech for the most part, some apprenticing here and there, but I had a love for the weird Japanese automaker. I transferred stores, and found where I felt I belonged.

Time went by, I advanced in the field, and they sent me to training for the brand. This worked out great, I was in no debt to schooling and I was doing what I love. I was learning more and more; I had a path that I wanted to continue on.

Classes consisted of teardowns of engines, transmissions, along with other instructed training.

Classes consisted of teardowns of engines, transmissions, along with other instructed training.

Everyone's heard one of two quotes: "do what you love, and money will follow", or "do what you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life".

The only way to do great work, is to love what you do.

Steve Jobs

The first of those can absolutely be true. It's what I have found to be true. The second one? Not so much. You are absolutely still working; in a case like mine where the work is a different sort of automotive from what you are paid to do, you have to consciously separate your at home mindset from your at work mindset.

I prefer to follow the words of Steve Jobs: "the only way to do great work, is to love what you do". I feel this fully encompasses how working within your passion really is. There will be days where you question your choice of turning a passion into a career; there will be days where you get burnt out of that same passion.

But in the end, you did love what you do, and that passion is still within you. With that passion, you obtain greatness in the work you do. Trades are still a legitimate job, no matter what you are told. You aren't too smart for a trade. If you love it, pursue it and don't let anyone tell you differently.

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Comments (5)

  • This is the kind of apprenticeships that my generation went through. I'm well into my sixties now, but I remember clearly going to collage, stripping and rebuilding engines, setting up diesel injectors, rebuilding clutches and the correct use of hand tools (I still have the toolbox I made there). Since then I have kept up with the times, doing vehicle-development prototyping and testing as well as scratch built specials. There is very little I can't turn my hand to even today, unable as I am to earn a living any longer through ill health. I always tell every youngster I meet, especially those who don't know what to do... get a trade, any trade. There will always be walls that need pain, or plastering, clothes that need assembling, hair that needs cutting, and so on and so forth. Machines will change over time, but they'll still conk out in the most inconvenient places and times when nothing but you the expert can jump into harness and save the day.

      5 days ago
  • Simply brillant! This is a great lesson about resilience and pursuing our aspiration.

    You did what you wanted and more important, today you love what you are doing.

    Sharing it today will inspire others, people like you are making this world better.

    Thank you!

      5 days ago
  • Great story, thanks, I'm even a bit jealous really, although I love my job.

    I love wrenching, but I'm not sure I would enjoy doing regular maintenance on regular cars.

    Now, I'm working on rebuilding a friend's Triumph Spitfire, the engine is toast, so we're looking to put something interesting on that restored chassis under the hood.

      5 days ago
  • I did an apprenticeship in engineering (toolmaking), then went off to university to study automotive engineering (no fees in those days).

    Decades later I went back to university and studied something I was interested in (environmental science).

    Higher education is still available for 'older' people, and to be honest, I enjoyed it more as a mature student. It was an eye opener for some other students that a bloke in the same peer group as their parents could still joke with them, be crude, offer advice without embarrassment etc, and do the same course.

    There is a big difference between doing a technicians course and a higher engineering/science course. Both are very valid, have their place and are in no way reflective on the intelligence or ability of the student. Just a shame that in the UK, 'engineers' have been devalued as they are confuse with technicians.

    It is possible to be both though.

      8 days ago
  • Thanks exactly what i needed. I got an apprenticeship I mb electrical engineering, my passion has always beem cars, Im most done with the training, i was second guessing whether i should pursue something related to cars.

      10 days ago