Training the Next Generation, Now
Finding the right person for the right job is one of the most satisfying components of working in the auto care industry. When great talent is unlocked, amazing things can happen. But when a shop is able to play a role in developing this talent, it's all the more impactful.
Programs like the NAPA AutoCare Apprenticeship allow for this phenomenon to occur. Any NAPA AutoCare center location in the United States has the opportunity to bring this program to fruition at their shop.
Joe Procyk, program development specialist with NAPA, believes that this kind of apprenticeship approach could hold the key to finding talent and filling the technician shortage.
“The technician shortage is a problem most shops feel every day,” Procyk says. “Having an option like the NAPA AutoCare Apprenticeship program allows our AutoCare Centers to reach a much broader talent pool, as they are now looking for a person with the right attitude and motivation for our industry. Through the apprentice program, they will teach them the skills needed to become an automotive repair technician.”
Follow the Steps to Success
Procyk explains that the apprenticeship design is modeled after an apprenticeship program developed by the McNeill's Auto Care team of Pete McNeil and his master technician Jake Sorenson.
The program consists of nine stages, covering everything from general service technician knowledge to in-depth diagnostics for various repair-oriented situations.
The provided training components of the apprenticeship program are taught in various ways. This includes classroom training videos developed with Sorenson, AutoTech classes based in a classroom environment, Autotech e-Learning, and hands-on learning that takes what the apprentice has learned and applies it to real-life examples with the supervision of their mentor.
Apprentices are able to earn four ASE certifications at various stages of the program. This includes the G1 earned at stage 4, A5 earned at stage 5, A4 earned at stage 6, and ASE A/C Certification earned at stage 8. The program is self-paced, and it usually takes around two years to complete.
“The goal of our program is to offer a platform that can be utilized to attract individuals to the automotive repair industry that would otherwise likely shy away,” Procyk says in an overview of the program.
Be an Active Supporter
HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire of Woodbridge, Virginia, is an example of a shop that has implemented the NAPA AutoCare Apprenticeship Program. Several apprentices are currently participating in the program while working at the shop.
It’s a program that fits well into the shop, as HomeTowne co-owner S.T. Billingsley explains, and the work done by the shop strives to have a genuine impact on both its customers and its employees alike.
“We're a locally-owned shop, and we're community focused,” Billingsley says. “Basically, our whole guiding principle is: how would you want your mom to be treated if she went to an auto repair shop? That’s what we're striving to do.”
Billingsley recognizes the value in the apprenticeship program and enjoys seeing what the apprentices achieve as they go through each step.
“You can see they're gaining knowledge and they’re starting to gain some confidence,” Billingsley says. “There’s actually a program track they can follow … not picking on younger millennials or Generation Z, but they like to see a plan laid out for them. Younger people today, they like to see the plan.”
All of the work doesn’t just fall to the apprentices, however. Billingsley explains that, in order for a shop to have success with the program, shops need to be willing to have someone step up to the plate as a mentor.
“Whether it's the shop owner or a technician, it does take that as part of the program to make it work,” Billingsley says. “We’re lucky that we have somebody here who enjoys teaching and helping out when [the apprentices] get stuck or they have questions. We're very fortunate in that way.”
The ability to have a structure and resources in place for apprentices allows this program to have a positive impact on those involved in the process as well as the shop.
It’s mutually beneficial, and Billingsley sees this as especially impactful when looking at it from the perspective of the apprentices themselves.
“I can start here. I can actually get a set of tools,” Billingsley says of the program's value from an apprentice’s standpoint. “If I complete the program, the tools become mine. That's actually a really good incentive.”
Additionally, the NAPA AutoCare Apprenticeship is a paid opportunity for participants, which makes it all the more enticing for potential recruits. The program is also registered with the Department of Labor. This means that it is not every individual center’s job to get their own certification, and they can have the opportunity to offer a nationally-recognized program at their shop.
“NAPA did a really good job of putting this program together,” Billingsley says. “It’s a pretty well laid out program and I'm looking forward to the next year or year and a half where we actually have people completing it and graduating from it.”
Use a Forward-Facing Outlook
As industry-wide concerns such as the labor shortage continue to cause hardships for shops, it is important to strategize for what the future may hold. Billingsley sees how this apprenticeship program works as an opportunity to cultivate technicians from the ground up, allowing shops to have a unique approach when it comes to finding and retaining talent.
“With this program, it allows us to have a laid out path from everything, from shop safety to setting the lift to the basics of working on vehicles,” Billingsley says. “This is what's going to help us over the next two to five years. The more people that get into a program like this, the better off it's gonna be for everyone.”