Entitlement vs. Accountability: Get the Most Out of Your Auto School Experience

by Tim Dwyer, Pro-Tech Automotive Program Instructor, Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee
Entitlement vs. Accountability: Get the Most Out of Your Auto School Experience

Automotive school attracts all types of mechanically-inclined students. To excel during automotive training and internships, students need to understand the difference between an entitlement attitude and one of accountability. Those who strive to learn the technical aspects of the industry as well as workplace accountability are destined to rev up their education and career potential.

The mission of all types of automotive programs is to teach students technical automobile skills, but students also need to learn how to be good employees. As students, it's important to learn skills for both the repair and people ends of the automotive business: hard skills and soft skills.

You may consider some of your early work experiences as “only” a way to pay your way through school. But these types of jobs can teach you how to be of worth to a company. If a specific task is required, than do it with the intent of doing the best job possible (instead of just doing enough to get by). When not told exactly what to do, try to do something that makes the work area better, cleaner or ahead of schedule (instead of standing around or disrupting the work of others).

Automotive programs typically strive to offer auto students technical skills plus exposure to hands-on, real-world work experience, utilizing both classroom and shop internship instruction. Sponsor shops and student mentors extend themselves to help provide students with a quality education and training, and are generally happy to do so for students with an automotive passion, but veteran techs can smell entitlement a mile away.

An entitlement attitude intern can be the wrench in the works of a well-oiled shop. Entitlement interns act as though the entire workday should be focused on the internship, as if the hosting shop owes the intern an education. Without constant input, direction and focus of their shop mentor, the entitlement intern is likely to stand around. The entitlement intern is also the quickest to make excuses: “There is not enough information” or “the wire colors don't match the wiring diagram” or “we need this tool to fix this car” or “you didn't tell me to do that.” Someone you have worked with fits this description; their face just popped into your head! Hopefully, the face was not your own.

An intern with an accountability attitude is willing to be the lubricant of efficiency that makes everyone's workday run more smoothly. This intern becomes involved in doing whatever it takes to make the shop as successful as it can be. The accountability attitude intern acts appreciative of the opportunity to work alongside National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master Technicians in shops that have a good clientele and business ethics. These interns are aware of their surroundings, in tune with the needs of those around them and not only accomplish what they are told to do, but also whatever else they are capable of doing. If the mentor pulls a car out for a test drive, the intern cleans and prepares the area for the next job. If the intern needs direction that is unavailable at the moment, he or she elects to clean or restock something. It's a bit harder to picture a person with this work ethic, isn't it?

As a former automotive professional and a teacher of the next generation of auto technicians, I am truly encouraged by the caliber of students taking an interest in the automotive industry. To best prepare for a rewarding career in the field, automotive students need to seek training that teaches them to be accountable, responsible and mature. Programs are paid to teach the automotive hard skills, but should also teach employee soft skills. The industry needs new technicians, but training must to ensure the shops of the future are staffed with people who reflect effort and abilities required to service the automobile of tomorrow.

About the Author

Tim Dwyer attended a two-year program at Spartan College of Aeronautics and graduated in 1976. Certified as an ASE Master Technician since 1977, he is additionally L-1 Advanced Engine Performance certified. His career includes 25 years as the owner/operator of Superwrench Import Auto in Tulsa, Okla., and at one time he served as the president of the Tulsa Chapter of the Automobile Service Association. Mr. Dwyer's professional activities led him to his role in helping to create and start the Pro-Tech Automotive Internship Program at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee in 2002. He sold his business to become an instructors for the program, coordinates the Skills USA contest on the OSU-Okmulgee campus each year and is a member of the North American Council of Automotive Teachers.

Editor's Note: ATo follow up with Tim Dwyer personally, click here.

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