Jake Schunk is living life at full throttle.
The 29-year old, New York native likes to ride very fast motorcycles with his friends in parking lots and on race tracks throughout the greater Houston area. “It’s pretty off-road stuff. We’re not trying to get on the highway and do reckless stuff,” Schunk explains in an NADA video.
Specifically, Schunk rides and maintains a highly modified Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R636 freestyle stunt motorcycle. “It’s nice because it keeps your mind off everything else. You can’t really think about anything besides what you’re about to do,” Schunk said about his stunt sport freestyle hobby. “You just got to rip the throttle, I guess.”
Schunk’s passion for riding can be seen through the love and care the motorcycling enthusiast showers on his ZX-6R. And he has turned that passion into a career as a service technician at John Eagle Honda in Houston, Texas.
A Natural Career Path
Schunk said he’s always been a problem solver who liked to tinker with cars. “I was always into cars and things like that,” he said. “My grandfather worked on cars when I was really young but he passed before I was old enough to get involved and learn how to use the tools.”
But when he entered a vocational high school, he got the opportunity to learn the trade that would set him on his career path, participating in an internship program that turned into a service tech job at a local New York Honda dealership.
That was 10 years ago and Schunk has never looked back. Three years ago, he traded in New York winters for Texas sunshine, and joined John Eagle, which employs 20 service techs.
Schunk’s career path leapfrog from internship to the full employment in a service bay isn’t at all unusual. Some of the best-paying and most stable jobs in America don’t require four-year college degrees but are instead available to smart, hard-working people who get highly-specialized technical on the job and at technical and vocational schools.
Local dealerships depend heavily on their service departments, writing up more than 155 million repair orders in 2017, with service and parts sales of more than $58 billion, according to the NADA Data 2018: Midyear Report, a biannual financial profile of new-car dealerships. The report found that annual payroll at new car dealerships was up 2.2 percent in 2017, to $65.3 billion. The median salary for the nearly 400,000 technicians employed by local dealerships nationwide is a respectable $59,000 plus benefits.
Nevertheless, service technicians are in short supply. By the year 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor projects there will be more than 1.2 million jobs in the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine industries alone. To fill that need, there will be more than 37,000 technician job openings on average every year.
A Job That’s Never Boring
So far, pursuing a career at an automotive service technician has been a good fit for Schunk who says his favorite part of the job is “it’s interesting. It’s something different every day. I come in everyday and I don’t exactly what I’ll be doing,” Schunk said. “It could be something simple or I could be pulling my hair out trying to figure out what the issue is. But at the end of the day, it’s something different, something new. Keeps it exciting.”
There’s also job security, the newly-engaged Schunk noted, and the ability to chart your own path to success. “People always need their cars fixed,” Schunk said. “The more you do, the harder you work, you can become more efficient and make more money.”
Schunk is focused on efficiency and improving his processes and tech skills. “As far as fixing problems, you think you’re just going to go and work on a car and ok this is what’s wrong, you’re going to fix it but it’s more than that,” he said. “You’ve got to relate to the customer and figure out where the issue is. You have to learn where to look to try to become more efficient at it.” And, he has to make sure he does it right the first time, Schunk said.
Schunk said he also appreciates John Eagle owner, Mac DeLaup and his dedication to his business and his community. “He takes really good care of us. He puts back into the company to make it better for us and the customer,” Schunk explained. “He goes out of his way to make sure everybody is taken care of, whether they work for the company, are a customer or just someone local in the community, he really goes above and beyond for everybody.”
As for others who might be considering a career in the automotive industry, Schunk says if they have the drive and determination, there’s plenty of opportunity in the service bay. “If it’s something that you enjoy, you’re passionate about cars, that’s a good reason to get into it.”