1.13.15: Puyallup High grad fulfills lifelong passion as auto technician
1.13.15: Puyallup High grad fulfills lifelong passion as auto technician
Posted on 01/13/2015

As early as five years old, Adam Dickson longed for the days when his dad would change the oil, check the fluids, or make other simple repairs on the family car.


“I have photos of me at that age standing next to him and watching him work under the hood,” Dickson said. “I wanted to know everything about how cars worked.”


Dickson’s curiosity for cars continued into his teen years when he began to repair and competitively race remote control cars with his grandfather. It was during this time, he said, that he developed a keen interest in steering, suspension, and other mechanical system designs and adjustments, as well as automotive electrical functions.


When it came time for Dickson to begin high school, the teen applied for a waiver to Puyallup High School — the only school in the district that offers an extensive automotive program as part of its Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings.


The district’s CTE “magnet” programs allow a student like Dickson, who lived in the Emerald Ridge High attendance area, to transfer to a different district high school in order to enroll in specialized CTE courses.


Dickson’s three years in the automotive program, as well as his volunteer work in the school’s Viking Motorsports Auto Club, helped him to secure a paid internship at the end of his junior year at Sunset Chevrolet in Sumner.


The dealership is one of more than a dozen of the high school’s community business partners that offer internships to qualified students.

After his graduation in 2008, Dickson enrolled for one quarter of general classes at Pierce College before transferring into the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) at Shoreline Community College.


The two-year ASEP program provides students with fundamental skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, along with valuable hands-on experience. Students alternate quarters between classroom instruction and paid dealership training.


The 2008 Puyallup High graduate completed the two-year program with his ASEP certification, an associate’s degree in applied arts and sciences, and the distinction of being named “Top Tech” in his graduating class.


He also gained immediate acceptance into a full-time job as an automotive service technician at Sunset Chevrolet in Sumner.

In his seven years on the job, Dickson has been called upon to do a long list of automotive technician work, including routine duties such as changing tires, servicing brakes, and replacing spark plugs.


The Viking alumnus is also regularly called upon by his superiors to troubleshoot more advanced mechanical and electrical issues, such as car batteries that drain quickly for no apparent reason or low engine power conditions


“I really enjoy it because it’s challenging,” Dickson said. “It works your brain trying to diagnose a problem and can feel so rewarding when you finally identify the root cause.”


Dickson said he draws on his years of schooling, including math, English, and science skills learned at Wildwood Elementary, Ferrucci Junior High, and Puyallup High, to be successful as an automotive service technician.


“Technicians use math skills and equations often in order to properly troubleshoot conditions involving current flow, voltage, and resistance, as well as to read ignition and camshaft timing,” he said.


Written and verbal communication skills are also essential, he said, to document work completed and explain to a service adviser or customer about a diagnosis and resolution.


Dickson shines in all areas, said his service manager, Jon Noyes.


“He is a complete asset to our shop and has been since day one,” Noyes said. “Everything you want in a technician, he does for us.”


One key indicator of a technician’s success, Noyes said, is when there are few “comebacks” — customers who return to the shop because a problem hasn’t been fixed to their satisfaction.


“Adam does a wonderful job getting the job done right the first time,” Noyes said.


Dickson gives credit for much of his learning over the years to his Puyallup High School automotive teacher Larry Turner.


“He worked with us one-on-one and was really helpful in explaining how things worked,” Dickson said. “He is also very dedicated to providing the best he can for the program.”


Turner described Dickson as “a great student who had a passion for cars” and someone who regularly competed in regional and state automotive competitions.


The 24-year-old graduate, who recently married Puyallup High 2012 graduate Brandi Arnold, said one of his dreams is to set aside enough money and time to work on his own car — a Saturn he purchased in high school that is much like the one he fondly remembers his late father working on years ago.


Dickson has installed some of the same car parts on his Saturn that helped power the car his dad drove before his death 10 years ago.


The Puyallup resident also plans to continue learning about the automotive industry by becoming certified in specialized areas.


“I really do love what I do,” he said. “I look forward to going to work. It’s my passion to do the best I possibly can every day.”