Shop Life Repairer Profiles

An Educator for the Industry

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In high school, Erik Rud remembers an auto shop college coming to visit to tell him and the other students about the different opportunities that were available in the automotive industry as a career. In that moment, he felt a sense of relief because he realized he could turn his passion for fixing vehicles into a livelihood. Rud went on to attend that program and is now the owner of Big Thompson Diesel and Automotive in Loveland, Colo. 

Although the program worked for him, Rud believes that there was more that could have been done, and because of that, he does everything he can to prepare his current employees, as well as future technicians, for the needs of today’s advanced vehicles. 

“Erik sees that a shortage of skilled mechanical workers is coming due to the advanced technology now in use in the industry,” Sarah Miller, VP of Big Thompson Diesel and Automotive, as well as Rud’s All-Star Awards nominator, says. “He does his best to train his employees and pay for classes for them to keep up with what’s going on.” 

Rud has a mentorship program at his shop that can take up to three aspiring technicians at a time. By doing this, he’s doing a small part for the industry as a whole and a huge service to his own business by growing talent 

Find the potential. 

Unfortunately, Rud doesn’t have a quick fix to finding top talent. What he does have is advice for what’s worked for him. 

“I start at the bottom and train them the right way,” he says. 

Instead of taking the time to re-train an older technician that’s known for job hopping and stuck in his ways, Rud reaches out to local high schools and tech schools to recruit for his mentorship program. Currently, Rud has a student that’s been with him for two years that is in his last year of high school. After he graduates, he is going to attend an auto college and work for Rud part-time and, the hope is, to be brought on full-time once he graduates. 

By creating a path like this, Rud is able to create a pipeline of talent at his shop. 

Do your part for the industry. 

The mentorship program is beneficial not only to the student, but also to Rud. But, that doesn’t mean that he’s only willing to help students that agree to come work for him. Rud has a flyer up at the local college with his contact information and encourages any students with an interest in the automotive trade to come speak with him—even if it’s just for a few hours to figure out what path is best for him or her. 

“I don’t mind talking to them, even if it’s just a little bit, so they can get their best foot forward. It if turns into more than that and they end up working for me, great,” Rud says.  

Once you find them, keep them. 

Training talent is a lot of work. Rud has a great group of employees with him right now, and he does not take advantage of them. 

“Once I have them, I do everything I can to keep them,” Rud says. 

Rud provides his employees with great benefits, including a retirement plan, contributions to IRA, good vacation and paid holidays. He also frequently buys his team lunch and encourages feedback on what they like and what they don’t like and how he can improve as a leader. 

Rud also pays for various training throughout the year for his team, as well as providing on-the-job training whenever he sees fit. If there’s a vehicle that’s particularly difficult, he’ll stop everyone in the shop and have them gather around to see the problem and the best fix. 

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