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What’s Wrong?

Read this month’s letters to the editor.


In response to your March column, What’s Wrong?: Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you should be a little careful in saying that the aftermarket isn’t promoting itself. Even a state association as small as we are gives scholarships to go to any college if the applicants are interested in a field pertaining to the aftermarket. A lot of the national associations also do the same thing. We even mail the applications directly to high schools and vocational schools to pass out to their students. We’re aware that we need young blood — both for parts and repair. Look around a little deeper as I’m only a very small part of this and probably not aware of half of what’s out there.


As you mentioned in your column, it’s American society that is belittling anything that is not a four-year education at a traditional university. The Europeans are ahead of us here as they are quite aware of the need for the trained professional, no matter what the field. Your job grasshopper, should you accept, is to sway public opinion to the real world.

Dick Shea
Executive Director
North Syracuse, NY

I enjoyed your column, What’s Wrong? in the March 2007 issue of Counterman.
As you know, I have been an advocate on education and training of counter professionals and automotive technicians for many years and I agree with your concerns. The federal government continues to advise the auto makers and challenge them to increase their technological skills in the areas of safety, emissions and alternative fuels. In my 2002 Counter Professional of the Year acceptance speech, I emphasized that it is time, “to foster new relationships” and I believe the time has come to begin looking toward our future regarding how we can educate and train our people within our industry.


It it is my opinion that we must start at the top. Corporate CEOs, presidents and owners must begin to realize the need and urgency to keep and maintain the tradition and their competitive edge. One way this can be achieved is to look within our communities. We need to approach our vo-tech schools, our community colleges and our universities to help develop programs and to offer certificates and degrees in given fields of studies.

We must also begin to recruit high school students who are interested in becoming part of the automotive profession and emphasize how important it is to continue their education. It is also important that we make our aftermarket industry attractive so that we can draw new people into our profession and begin to foster lasting relationships.


Jerry Ives
Forsythe Auto Parts
Syracuse, NY

I also read the article in the Wall Street Journal you mentioned in your recent column What’s Wrong? and had a similar reaction: What’s wrong with vocational education?

It’s a simple question but the answer can be very complex. For example, we live in a society where everyone believes that their sons or daughters must go to a university — in other words, not into a trade. It’s not just true of automotive, it’s true of all trades. And, it’s not only parents who discourage it, but also high-school and college counselors. They almost always, unless the student is a complete misfit, urge them to go to college and get a degree. That’s why it’s important that we continue to keep the aftermarket in front of them.


You are right about the good job the OE dealers do in developing relationships with vo-tech programs, as well as recognizing our industry’s lack of training investment, as Tom Easton pointed out in his March article, Your Greatest Asset.

I am glad you mentioned that there are some positive actions such as Uni-Select’s efforts with Alfred State College. Please don’t forget SkillsUSA. It does a terrific job not only helping kids to grow in their vocational skills, but also in their people and leadership skills. I have met some SkillsUSA national officers and these kids are truly impressive. In fact, you should come to Kansas City at the end of June when SkillsUSA has its national vocational competition.


Brian, also — please do not forget the work of Steve Hoellein and how he has consistently sponsored over a dozen students a year for GAAS scholarships. Yes, we need a lot more “Steves” to make more of an impact. My hope is that with the work that AAIA’s CCPN and Education Committee efforts to get a handle on our industry image issues, along with the GAAS Scholarship Committee continuing to award more scholarships, we will be able to recruit more great women and men and develop more people like Steve to be standard bearers for our industry recruiting.


Chuck Udell
Senior Partner
Essential Action Design Group
Kansas City, MO

Chuck, Steve did indeed write, and we’ll publish his response in next month’s issue.

— Ed.

I appreciated your editorial, What’s Wrong? in the March issue. Vo-tech education is one of the most overlooked areas for most aftermarketers.

We had a scholarship program for the past eight years with the local vo-tech schools in which we gave money for tools for kids to enter the workforce or for kids to continue their education. In 2006 we gave six $500 scholarships of this nature to deserving young people and over the eight years, found that we developed recognition from the local installer base. They certainly need to find good techs and I hope we generated some loyalty from these students as they enter the workforce. We held a customer golf tournament fundraiser for this cause and matched the funds raised to supplement this program.


I know there are more people out there doing these kinds of programs, but certainly not enough!

Ron Levene
AMG, Ltd.
Binghampton, NY

A brief comment on the vo-tech question: What’s Wrong? As you may know, I have spent considerable time in the past year working with the community colleges here in Maryland, researching an effective partnership arrangement that will get the aftermarket involved where the dealers have enjoyed free run of their campuses. In the process, I have come to suspect that the advancing technical nature of our industry may have already shifted the level of basic auto tech education from high school to college. High school auto tech programs may need to go away as we obviously need more high school grads with better math and science skills.


This is still a great industry, offering great careers. We employers just need to pick our workers off the branches higher up the tree.

I am hopeful that as this shift takes place, the aftermarket gets as committed and organized as the car dealers to participate in the resources of public education and reap its rewards.

You may want to contact CARQUEST about this shift as I see them in my area already using the community colleges aggressively.

Skip Potter
Executive Director
Chesapeake Automotive Business Assoc.
Serverna Park, MD

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