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Rethink Your Approach to Apprenticeships

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When a young man came to Paul Schnaidt’s shop, Performance Tune Auto Repair, looking for an apprenticeship, Schnaidt turned him down. 

Like most in the industry he was looking for “an 18-year-old with 20 years of experience.” They needed a new technician, and the young man had no mechanical repair experience. 

Nine months later, the young man came back again looking for a start in the industry. This time Schnaidt realized his first line of thinking was off. 

“We were looking for someone who could hit the ground running, but that doesn’t happen,” he said. “I love this industry and I hate to see the talent pool diminish, so I think there’s a very good reason to bring in an apprentice.”

The young man, Jason, has now been on staff for just a few weeks. Schnaidt has employed his Master technician to help him along with the processes and procedures. He understands that might result in some short-term productivity struggles. But before long, Jason should be able to change oil, do tire rotations and repair brakes. 

Schnaidt is part of a business group in Colorado, and he’s heard from shop’s on both sides of the apprenticeship debate. Some are proactive and progressive in their actions, taking on apprenticeships and paying for tools. Some are much more worried about the productivity hit and the headache it might cause, but to Schnaidt the value added to the industry and potential value add to the shop outweighs those growing pains. 

“I wish more shops were willing to take that step.”

The idea that an apprentice is bound to slow down the workflow of the shop is something other shops are also fighting against. 

In a recent video interview with Ratchet+Wrench that will be featured in an upcoming video series, CEO of GB Auto Service Frank Kneller spoke to the importance of apprenticeships. GB Auto is a full service repair shop, but they also have a major investment in the selling and repair of tires. To Kneller, tire repair and sales are the perfect launch pad for a young technician or apprentice. It is simpler than the full-service repair and allows them to be productive for the shop while also learning. 

As the talent pool diminishes, shops may very well need to come up with their own creative ideas to create opportunities for the next generation of techs, while also keeping the shop productive. One of the common misnomers of apprenticeships is that productivity has to be sacrificed. As we see above, that doesn’t need to be the case. 

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