I’m looking for a few answers and what better place to start than the one constant I’ve had over the years: good ‘ol Counterman magazine? I guess to start off this little story, I will give you a little background on myself. I started in the parts business in 1979 as an inventory clerk and then over the years, moved on to be a driver, counterperson and manager. Throughout those years, I’ve worked for independents, CARQUEST, a NAPA DC and an independent NAPA store. Now, I am an assistant manager at a large wholesaler/
Now, the question: Somewhere in the ‘80s, around ‘86 or ‘87, while reading Counterman, I came across an article about parts people becoming ASE certified. These certifications would allow the career to carry a more professional label (as opposed to the “Old Men Only” parts stores of yester year) and add credibility. This would also result in a better pay scale and it would bring a more professional demeanor to the industry.
Now don’t get me wrong, many things have changed over the years, mostly for the good. But as time goes by, I think the industry is lagging behind others. Most of the stores I worked at had a veteran crew, and it was tough to draw in new talent. From a career standpoint, I thought that’s where the ASE certification was supposed to fit in.
I know a lot of counter people who have never taken the ASE test because while all the companies advertise they have staff to lend that credibility, most of the old guys are established and the new ones don’t see the value or the benefits.
In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I took and passed the test. Sure, the companies pay for testing and learning is always a good thing, but where is the career and higher-pay opportunities that are supposed to be a result of obtaining ASE certification?
I’ve recently had discussions with several of my peers and they all say that I should just accept the fact that it is what it is. But, I for one hope that I might see that day!
Thanks for your letter, Dennis.
The topic of pay is perhaps the most constant issue brought up by readers. Counterman was very involved in the creation of the original ASE Parts Certification test in the mid-80s, and we thought then, as we do now, that ASE certification would improve the overall standing of the parts profession as a career. Unfortunately, I believe compensation has lagged relative to the time and skills necessary to do the job well.
This is not across the board, however; some stores and WDs have finally come to the realization that their overall operations are reliant upon their stores for success. If those who work the counter aren’t compensated appropriately, they will leave. As you well know, this situation has been made easier by active recruitment efforts by the national retailers.
As more and more WDs acquire stores, the success of these individual stores will become more and more important, creating a great need for skilled parts professionals and store managers. The current WD trend of store acquisition, rather than the effect of ASE certification, will end up being good for counter professional pay. Certification, however, is a yard stick by which progressive stores and WDs can gauge employees, and that’s really the true benefit.