Mechanic

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Mark, 31

What does a mechanic do?

Mark flicks a switch on the hydraulic hoist, exposing the underbelly of a silver sedan. He's been a mechanic for eight years, working in small, private businesses. His current job is at a dealership, with night and day shifts, for a major car manufacturer. "There's probably about 30 technicians in total," he says gesturing around the hangar-sized workshop. "I've got nothing to do with the customers at this place. I just repair the vehicles," he says.

Mark comments that a small workshop is the best place to learn because you're dealing with different makes of vehicles, the customers, and "you're a lot tighter as a group". He says that a dealership has more job security and that, even though you're only working on one make of car, you get to work on all types of automobiles from small cars to light trucks.

What does a typical working day involve?

"It's very diverse. You can do anything from basic lube [lubrication] services to major engine overhauls," Mark says. "I might change the oil and filter, inspect a car for registration, do brake works, do preventative maintenance like changing spark plugs before they're completely worn out, change the clutch, and do engine tune ups."

Mark says you never know what type of job you'll be assigned. "You can get a job that takes one hour, but then another job might take two days. It's the tricky little things, like little rattles in a new car, that can do your head in."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"You get a real sense of achievement when a car doesn't run and you can get it going. You can actually use your brain, your memory, your senses and your own set of skills to perform something that someone else can't do. That's really satisfying," Mark says.

On the downside, he lists the award wages, and says that some jobs "make you want to throw a hammer across the room" because it's frustrating when you can't pinpoint the problem. He also mentions the dirty conditions, that it's physically tiring work and that "you do hurt yourself". He shows me all the cuts and scars on his hands.

How did you become a mechanic?

"I initially studied horticulture but found I liked driving cars and had an interest in automotives," says Mark who began his apprenticeship at age 23. "I was a late starter," he says. "Most people had already completed their apprenticeship and they were a lot more knowledgeable than me. That affected my self-esteem a bit."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

"You need to have a good memory and good coordination because you need to be able to do two things at once," Mark comments. Other useful attributes include being persistent, possessing time management skills, working quickly, being fit because "you're on your feet all day doing strenuous work at times" and being confident. "There's a big safety responsibility," he says, "so you have to be confident about your decisions." He also mentions that you need to be able to save money during your apprenticeship to buy tools.

Are there any tips for getting a job as a mechanic?

"Do some work experience first to see if you enjoy putting a car on the hoist, taking the wheels off and breathing in all the brake dust. See if you like getting your hands dirty," Mark suggests. "If you do you have an interest in being a mechanic then do an apprenticeship."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).