Taking The Long Way: After Years Of White-Collar Work, Aspiring Shop Owner Returns To Automotive -
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Taking The Long Way: After Years Of White-Collar Work, Aspiring Shop Owner Returns To Automotive

While not your typical path to becoming a technician, Ben Pohl is proving it’s never too late to follow your career goals.

Ben Pohl returned to the trades when he enrolled in the College of DuPage’s auto program. Photo courtesy of the College of DuPage.

Like many kids, Ben Pohl was told working on cars wasn’t a real career. Several years and careers later, Ben is proving those naysayers wrong. 


Ben was a teenager when he refinished a 1973 Volkswagen Bug with his father. He loved putting the pieces together and figuring out how everything worked to make the vehicle run. 

Three months later, distracted driving led to a car crash. Ben was severely injured and it took months of therapy to relearn how to walk and even talk (a story he shares with students across the country). 

Following the accident working in automotive wasn’t much of a thought anymore. So, Ben did what many do, he went to a four-year college and got his degree. 

The auto lab at the College of DuPage. Photo courtesy of the College of DuPage.

Upon graduation he worked as therapist at a maximum-security prison. The hours were long and the job emotionally tolling. He was burnt out before he knew it. Ben went on to get a master’s degree and pursued public administration. He worked many white-collar jobs, and he made good money. But something was missing. Ben wasn’t happy.

“I remember one night I was lying in bed, I look it up at the ceiling and I was like, ‘What am I doing? Is this what I’m going to be doing for the next 20 years?’,” Ben recalls. 


The answer to his question was simple. He decided to study what he always wanted to: automotive. Now 40 years old, Ben is starting over. This year he’ll finish up his two-year automotive technology degree at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. 

“It was the greatest decision of my life, I’m sure of that,” says Ben.” 

While not your typical path to becoming a technician, Ben will start working in a shop for experience while he attends the Southern Illinois University to earn additional automotive education. He notes that without the college and its instructors, he would never have made this 180 in his career. 

Ben credits his automotive instructors for helping him succeed on his new career path. Photo courtesy of the College of DuPage.

By December, Ben plans to have all his ASEs completed and graduate a master tech before working in a shop. 

“I know I’m 40, my knees are going to hurt, my back’s going to hurt, but I think it’s invaluable to you to work in a shop,” Ben notes. “I don’t think it’s good when someone just gets their education and jumps into an administrative role or a management role. I think it’s imperative, crucial to get that ground level experience.”


After a year or so in the shop, Ben plans to combine his business and automotive skills together and open his own automotive shop.

“I finally figured out that No. 1 is you’ve got to be happy,” says Ben. “You don’t want to go through life bitter. Just go after what you want. You can be successful while doing something that you love to do.”

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