Negativity is hurting this industry and it's timesomeone called attention to it. It needs to stop!
I was talking to a technician the other day who, completely unsolicited, sighed and offered the following observation: “Man, this industry sucks!” He slipped it in toward the end of our conversation, as if this is how he regularly wraps up phone calls. “This industry sucks.”
There is a lot of negativity in this industry. I hear it all the time and, quite frankly, it is hurting out industry. It damages our reputation and makes it harder to recruit new talent. It needs to stop.
Now, I know that negativity in the workforce is nothing new. Millionaire hockey stars and Hollywood actors will whine about their lot in life, given half a chance. It's natural, I suppose. But it’s not healthy.
I was, for a while, the editor of a trade magazine for truck drivers, and I had to deal with a lot of negativity there too. I learned that the average wage for a truck driver in Canada is $34,000 a year. That's about $34,000 a year too low, given what they have to put up with.
The negativity in that industry seems to be mixed with confusion about why their fortunes have fallen so dramatically. It wasn't that long ago that driving long haul was the ideal job for free-spirited mavericks with a taste for the open road. Now a lot of drivers feel like prisoners in their own cabs, captive to low wages, poor work conditions, and shifting societal values.
Well, I can tell you that some technicians feel trapped too. Trapped by stagnant wages, demanding customers, the rising cost of tooling up, the relentless need for skills upgrading, burdensome environmental laws, meddlesome governments, and a searing lack of respect from the general public.
But I also know there are technicians who love their jobs, love the industry, and love coming to work everyday. When I talk to them, I get energized. It is infectious.
In January, I met three technicians at the Worldpac training expo in California, who were like kids in a candy store. They made a big impression on me because they were excited about their jobs. They soaked up the training and couldn’t wait to get back home to put what they’d learned to use.
Perhaps even more surprising was the way they spoke about their bosses – the shop owners who had sent them for training. They never once used the term “ESO,” which apparently stands for “evil shop owner” and is frequently found on technician forums.
There was no grumbling or frustration. On the contrary, they all had stories that demonstrated the mutual respect that exists in their work places. All three had been asked to take over running the shop during personal crises in their boss’s lives. All three rose to the challenge and added some management skills to their resumes. These guys are not trapped or demoralized. They are not nay-sayers. They are true leaders in this industry. Thought leaders. Attitude leaders.
Every once in a while, when I’m talking to industry folks, we play the game, “If you could change one thing about this industry, what would it be.”
Truthfully? I would wish for rampant optimism among technicians. I would wish for positivity and confidence.
Think of all the cars out there that need to be maintained. Think of all the customers who rely on us to do what they cannot. Anyone with a head for mechanics and electronics will always be in high demand.
This industry has its challenges, and I’m as frustrated by the slow progress in dealing with them as anyone. But it doesn’t suck. Opportunities are everywhere. And the best way to find them is to start with a positive attitude. Otherwise you’re beaten before you even start.
Am I wrong? Tell me what you think. I welcome your feedback.
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Edited comments may appear in Canadian Technician magazine.