STX 2024: Cushing, O'Kelly Talk Education, Electrification, and Sustainability

May 22, 2024
In a media session, Bob Cushing and Shane O'Kelly discuss Advance and Worldpac's commitment to equip and train the automotive aftermarket.

In a closed-door media session, Shane O’Kelly, president and CEO of Advance, and Bob Cushing, EVP of Advance and president of Worldpac, highlighted their organization's commitment to equipping and educating the automotive aftermarket. According to data from Worldpac, 2,390 repair shop owners, service writers, technicians, and students attended training courses at STX.

O’Kelly and Cushing outlined the importance of auto repair shop owners understanding the unique aspects of servicing electric vehicles, with Worldpac and Advance providing high-quality products for auto repair shops. The pair stated that addressing sustainability concerns, industry-wide labor shortages, and meeting the need for more technical training and certification programs were top of mind for them.

Cushing mentioned the increase in management classes and the high interest they received from attendees. He noted that more classes focused on personnel management, multi-location management, and customer experience were added to help shop owners improve their business operations. Of the 392 training classes offered at STX, 80 were business management classes.

O’Kelly shared that Advance is committed to developing more car-line-specific training classes, especially around electric vehicles, to ensure technicians understand the unique aspects of different models. He added that another educational focus would be integrating more training on software diagnostics, high voltage safety, and calibration since these will be important skills for today’s technicians. All told, 203 classes focused on emerging technologies were offered while 52 hands-on classes with full vehicles or portions of vehicles available for attendees and students.

Discussing the involvement of technical school students—138 students from Lincoln Tech in Nashville, Tennessee, and multiple schools from the Metro Nashville Public School system were in attendance this year—Cushing stated their goal to continue engaging with high schools and technical schools to promote rewarding careers in automotive repair and attract new technicians to the industry. He added that Worldpac aims to continue student sponsorships and to provide apprenticeship opportunities.

"If you look at some of the projections on the shortage of technicians, the numbers are staggering. I mean, hundreds of thousands … We're going to train the technicians that are there and that's why they're here,” Cushing said of working technicians, before discussing the students. “It’s always about bringing the youth and letting them know what’s there. They're excited about what they're seeing. They love the idea of the technology … This is more up their alley."

When asked for an update on the Worldpac sale, O’Kelly confirmed that it was progressing according to the timeline, with the sale expected to happen in the second quarter of 2024.

When asked about increased auto repair shop consolidation across the aftermarket, Cushing said, “There's going to be more and more consolidation for sure … We talked about the shortage of technicians. If you're not providing a career path for technicians, do you really think that they're going to stay with you? The chances are unlikely. And so they're going go with somebody who's investing in them … investing in their future. The ones that aren't doing that, and there's a fair amount of people that don't really understand the value of training, which I can't even believe, they're going by the wayside."

About the Author

Ratchet+Wrench Staff Reporters

The Ratchet+Wrench staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and mechanical repair experience.

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