Where can someone with an automotive/diesel technology
associates get a great job that's not flat rate pay?
Check with your State or Government shops, a lot of those are salary and not flat rate, out in my area there are a lot of places that work on logging equipment that is hourly but the drawback is you have to go to the site to work on them. There are still independent shops out there that pay hourly wage but few and far between, they are usually older shops with a Mom and Pop type of work environment, wages won't be as high but a better work ethic.
Dealers pay flat rate which is the dirty little secret they have. To me this explains why some dealers have such shoddy repairs. If you work on heavy equipment you will probably need a heavy duty truck with a lift and a ton of tools. You could work for yourself but that means renting a shop and having all your own tools.