St. Louis-area experts offer students insight into aftermarket careers
St. Louis—College and high school automotive students received a first-hand look — and listen — into aftermarket career opportunities recently from St. Louis region industry veterans and experts at a career panel discussion. Hot topics of discussion included pay rates, advancement opportunities, benefits, and overall work environments.
“I started out with pretty much nothing and did it all by myself at first. As time went on I learned the importance of the business side of things and was able to adapt and be successful,” Kevin Thomas, owner of Kevin’s Car Care in Barnhart, Mo., told attendees.
The St. Louis Chapter of MWACA (Midwest Auto Care Alliance) held the event and dinner at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park. It was the first time holding the panel discussion after the formation of the new association, formerly under the ASA-Midwest moniker.
The event was mainly for students seeking a career in the automotive service industry and was an introduction to local independent shop owners and managers, and was an opportunity for students, parents and educators to make a connection with potential employers, learn more about the industry and get their questions answered.
Various shop owners, technicians, and managers also took turns discussing their histories in the industry. Most of the owners on the panel had similar stories of starting from scratch and building their business into a success.
Other panelists included Mike Silva, owner of Advanced Auto Service; Bob McGartland, owner of Robinwood Auto Service; Jim Edwards, technician at Kevin’s Car Care; Clinton Nesselbush, technician at Robinwood Auto Service; Eric Lewis, service manager at Coffey Automotive, and Steve Adams, wholesale manager at NAPA Auto Parts.
It was led by MWACA St. Louis Chapter President Doug Jacquot, and hosted by Rick Anthes, associate professor of Automotive Technology at St. Louis Community College.
A common theme from the technicians was their advice on being able show initiative when joining the workforce, but at the same time being able to handle instruction and criticism.
On the service side, the owners, as well as the service manager, Lewis, discussed alternatives to turning wrenches such as working as a service writer.
They stressed the importance of having good people and phone skills as well as being thick-skinned. “You never know what kind of mood a customer is going to be in. You have to be ready for anything and able to handle each situation on the fly without losing them,” Lewis said.
Another alternative to becoming a technician was discussed by Steve Adams, wholesale manager of NAPA. “Maybe you will decide that turning wrenches isn’t for you. There are plenty of opportunities in the auto parts sector that you can explore. NAPA offers positions in sales, management, and warehouse distribution.”
NAPA also raffled off two sets of GearWrench ratcheting tools to students who participated.