Running a Shop

2019 All-Star Technician: Jake Sorensen

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Jake Sorensen became a master technician at the age of 19, has accumulated 14 ASE certifications and has been with McNeil’s Auto Care for 12 years. He has the expertise, knowledge, and experience to win this award, but what sets him apart from the rest is his dedication to teaching others—both in and out of the shop. 

The most rewarding part of working at McNeil’s, a 14,000-square-foot, 18-employee shop in Sandy, Utah, that produces $2.6 million in annual revenue, is the federally accredited apprenticeship program that Sorensen developed, he says. The shop takes on apprentices for a two-year program, using the materials and methodology developed by Sorensen, and walks them through an intensive learning of everything in the shop. The apprentices are usually in their mid-20s and graduate with three ASE certifications, making them journeymen auto technicians. The apprenticeship is not only paid, but Sorensen says the technicians also double their pay and earn tools by the time they wrap up their program, meaning they have no debt, which is practically unheard of in this industry. 

“It’s a lot of fun seeing someone who you teach have it ‘click’ in their mind and then do it on their own,” Sorensen says. 

After the apprentices finish their programs, Sorensen says the shop staff encourages them and helps them to become master technicians. This May, their first apprentice, who started as a lube technician in 2018, achieved his master tech certification. 

“There’s something gratifying about knowing you helped them get there,” he says.

McNeil’s apprenticeship program soon caught the attention of NAPA Auto Care, largely thanks to Sorensen. Now, NAPA has its own nationally accredited apprenticeship program, which it developed with Sorensen as its lead technician. The first part of the program is an online guided learning portion to get the students ready to work in the shop. 

“I’ve written all of the scripts and starred in most of the videos so far,” Sorensen says. 

Even Pete McNeil, owner of McNeil’s, has been in front of the camera a bit. While the glow of the limelight is alluring, Sorensen says he is most excited about this project because of the national technician shortage. 

“A lot of people think it’s because no one wants to get into the automotive industry. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s that they don’t know how,” Sorensen says.

As if the apprenticeships programs weren’t enough, Sorensen also teaches introductory automotive classes at the Entrada Adult High School in Sandy, Utah. He then works to get his students into McNeil’s program for hands-on experience. 

“Hands-on teaching is my goal. These classes have a lot of great information, but you don’t retain as much when you’re not working hands on,” he says. 

Sorensen’s devotion doesn’t stop when he leaves the shop. He volunteers as a technical judge for the SkillsUSA competition each year and is a volunteer sound technician at his church where he trains others in those trades as well. His most recent volunteer work has been for a fishing program called C.A.S.T. which seeks to enrich the lives of children with special needs. For the past two years, Sorensen has volunteered as a boat captain and taken children and their families out for a day on the water. 

Sorensen, who is a father of two, says he doesn’t have plans to leave McNeil’s anytime soon, but he would like to teach as much as he can. 

“I would love to start my own training program and offer technicians up to other people,” he says. 

Sorensen is full of passion, know-how and shows no signs of slowing down, which is why he has been named the 2019 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award in the shop worker category.

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