I am going to say it, American technicians have a bad image. But, the image is not the reality. Most technicians are electricians, fabricators, engineers, IT troubleshooters and entrepreneurs all rolled into one. But, we are still fighting the image problem with consumers who think anyone can fix a car, or they are too smart to get their hands dirty.
The visual manifestation comes through in how technicians are depicted in the media, such as movies, television and magazines. But, it is not a problem for technicians around the world.
If an advertising agency, media outlet or company wants a picture of a technician, they can go to a real shop and take a picture, or they can purchase one online from a stock photography service. These services are global, so a picture might come from Asia, Europe or South America.
If you search the term “mechanic” (not too many pictures come up using “technician”) you get an interesting perspective on how different cultures value automotive repair professionals.
You can always tell where a photo was taken by looking at the uniform and not the complexion of the person’s skin. In Europe, the technician typically wears a pair of bib overalls. In Asia, mechanics usually wear a matching windbreaker and pants combo. They are always clean and free of stains. The technician in the photograph is treated the same way as a doctor or an accountant — with respect.
Then you get to the photos by American photographers. The typical image is of an idiot working with a car on a jack or jackstands.
They might be wearing an old second-hand work shirt that is dirty and untucked. To the photographer, the captured image is authentic to what they have been taught by the popular media and culture.
What these photographs really illustrate is how people around the world value the people who fix their vehicles. I have seen shops in Europe, Asia and South America, and they aren’t that much different than those in America. There are good ones and bad ones, geniuses and goof-offs. But no matter what language they speak, at the core a technician is a technician.
In China, repair professionals are held in high regard, and they are seen as an important part of the economy. In America, being a mechanic is typically depicted as a dirty, low-class job performed by people who aren’t too bright.
The reality is the opposite. American technicians are some of the best educated and most intelligent, while the world is lagging behind. Compared to the rest of the world, American technicians lead the way when it comes to diagnostics and electrical testing.
How did the image problem happen? Some blame Goober, Gomer and even the Fonz. But, somewhere America lost respect for mechanical knowledge and hard work. What can we do to improve it?