“All hands are supposed to have nicks and traces of grease, right?” Josh Standard, a diesel mechanic in training, asks in the opening line of his scholarship essay to Courtesy Auto Service and Tire of Tacoma.
A Snohomish county resident and student at Arlington High School, Josh graduated in the summer of 2017. Some students take a semester or even a year off after they get their hands on that coveted diploma, but not Josh.
“I can still remember being a small boy and going to see my grandfather,” Josh reminisces. “You could say that my obsession with cars, trucks and all things that make them work is my grandfather’s fault. Together we spent many hours discussing our favorite projects and my future in the automotive industry.”
He worked hard during his time in high school, tackling a course load full of extracurriculars as well as immersing himself in specialty automotive training at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center in Everett, Washington.
In August, with the help of Courtesy Auto Service in Tacoma, Josh jumped right into pursuing his dream full time after graduating. He was admitted to the Universal Technical Institute in Avondale, Arizona, where he plans to explore a career as a diesel mechanic. A scholarship award from Courtesy Auto helped to finance his schooling. It was very important to Josh that he make his own way towards this goal. Without the help of generous members of the community, it would have been much harder to start off down this road toward realizing his potential.
While Scott Welsh, owner of Courtesy Auto, received applications from many talented young people, he says that Josh’s application was easy to select. “He made every effort to meet all the requirements for the application and sincerely was trying to do a thorough job. He had many letters of recommendation, which impressed me. His grades and transcripts were good and he had a good vision for where he wanted to be in the near future. I sincerely wish him all the best and hopes that he achieves all of his goals.”
Courtesy Auto’s scholarship program developed to serve two goals. Scott’s shop has a solid reputation for providing quality, honest and transparent service to the South Sound community it serves. First and foremost, Scott hopes to encourage more aspiring technicians and to give back to the community that supports him. “The community has done a lot for me, and it is only natural to give back,” he says. “It makes a better community.” But he also aims to help fill a growing demand for technicians.
“Auto technicians are like doctors and dentists,” he explains. “They are responsible for working on highly technical issues involving data, electricity and mechanical machines. They are responsible to work on very expensive items – monetarily and emotionally – to our customers. The vehicles they work on are like family in some cases to the owner. Some techs have to have the X factors to be able to think outside the box, in understanding the relationships between these systems. Some have it, some do not. A good tech is a problem solver, likes a challenge and likes to be challenged mentally to be an expert at his craft. It requires continuing education and investment.”
Scott explains that it’s important to the auto industry to identify and train quality technicians. Dealerships across the country have reported a dramatic drought of customers, largely due to a lack of qualified auto repair technicians in the workforce. His hope is to ultimately build relationships and encourage a new generation of young people to pursue a career in the industry.
Old-fashioned notions of what it’s like to be an auto mechanic are what some experts cite as a reason for the shortage of mechanics today. Some believe it’s the millennial mindset, which tends to aspire to traditional vocations and has been reported to denounce “dirty” auto jobs. Others suggest that tech schools simply aren’t producing enough quality technicians.
Whatever the reason for the scarcity of techs, Jennifer Maher encourages auto shop owners to be proactive. As the CEO and executive director of TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping tech students and businesses succeed, she recommends that shop owners take the initiative to inspire new talent. “Sometimes the most important thing is getting involved in the community and building relationships with future techs as they’re growing and maturing rather than just putting all your attention on graduates or people looking for jobs.”
Automobiles have become more and more sophisticated as years go by. New technologies, hybrid or diesel engines, computer microprocessors, entertainment systems, wireless internet and mechanical features mean that technicians need more than the intuition of a weekend mechanic to serve drivers. For this reason, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for skilled and well-trained techs is only expected to rise.
Josh fell in love with cars at a young age, and now, with the help of a local business, he’s able to pursue his dreams. With any luck, he hopes to one day build a business that serves the community much like his benefactor.
“There is such a need for technicians in today’s world,” he says. “I feel by choosing the diesel field, I am not only doing something I enjoy, but I will also be a contributing member of society. My ultimate future goal is to open a shop of my own in my hometown of Arlington, Washington. I want to be able to provide honest, reliable, complete care in my hometown that people can trust. I think it is important to give back to my community and am lucky enough to pursue a career in a field that I genuinely enjoy.”