National Auto Service Professionals Day was established in 2001 by the ASE “to acknowledge the skill and dedication of the men and women who service and maintain the highly complex vehicles consumers depend on for their day-to-day transportation.” It’s an important campaign of empowerment and awareness because the auto repair industry is currently experiencing an acute shortage of skilled mechanics and auto technicians.

Profiting from passion

“I didn’t know I was creative until I was given the opportunity to exercise it.”

Paul Teutul Sr. and his son, Paul Jr., know a thing or two about embracing the automotive trade and riding it to success. Best known for the Discovery Channel TV series “American Chopper,” the father and son team have entertained millions as they transformed their small garage startup into a major custom bike brand. But their success did not happen randomly. They say it came as a direct result of pursuing passion.

Paul Sr. ran a steel business for 27 years, but had always loved restoring bikes since the early ‘70s. Then one day, he and Paul Jr. decided to set up a little shop behind the steel house to build customized bikes.

Paul Jr. was simply following in his father’s footsteps and had learned a lot of mechanical and technical skills in the steel shop, but his creative potential revealed itself more slowly. “I had no higher education, no formal training, no classes on design,” he says. Then he began to experiment, and his designs began to evolve dramatically. “I didn’t know I was creative until I was given the opportunity to exercise it.”

The orders soon began pouring in, and the success of the business was a revelation for both father and son. When Discovery Channel came knocking, the little shop behind the steel house reached a whole new level of success.

Taking the trade route

Still, despite success stories like the Teutuls’, there simply isn’t a lot of focus on skilled trade among young people today. Paul Jr. points out, “I think maybe that we’ve gotten into this generation where it’s like parents don’t want their kids to work physically, like there’s something wrong with that.”

Paul Sr. is quick to acknowledge the obvious value of a college education, but he also wants young people to appreciate the value of a trade. “I knew I was not going to college. There was no doubt in my mind,” he says with a chuckle.  “But I gave my kids the opportunity to go to college, and they all took a trade.”

Both father and son encourage young people to look into trade and vocational schools, and to consider the potential economics of each option. “If you’re a tradesman you’re pretty much starting right off making good money. And then hopefully, at some point, you open up your own business… and I think we need more of that.”

At the end of the day, regardless of the chosen path, Paul Sr. believes the secret to success always comes back to following your passion. And when he’s asked to name his all-time favorite bike restoration project, he smiles and says, “The next one.”