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How to Develop Your Next Generation of Auto Service Techs

Apprenticeship Programs Can Help You Capture, Train New Talent

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In North Carolina, each Black's Tire Service apprentice receives a voucher to help offset the cost of their education and in South Carolina, a tax credit is issued to the dealership for each apprentice.

This exclusive article, written by Gary Collier, who handles recruitment and employee training for Black’s Tire Service Inc., is the first in MTD’s 2022 Tire Dealer Survival Guide series. Stay tuned to www.moderntiredealer.com for additional Tire Dealer Survival Guide articles.


There will be 3.6 million high school graduates in the United States this year. We don’t need them all. But we do need thousands of them as automotive technicians. The questions are where do we need them, how do we recruit them and how do we train them?  


The tire dealership I work for, Black’s Tire Service Inc., which has more than 50 locations across North and South Carolina, is answering these questions by establishing relationships with school systems and communities. 


It’s all about promoting the fact that working in the tire and automotive industries is a viable career option. These industries offer opportunities in vehicle repair, administration, accounting, information technology, marketing, sales and more for individuals who have a desire to understand how things work and a desire to work with one’s mind, as well as one’s hands, to solve complex problems. (The owner of our company, Ricky Benton, began his career working at an independent tire dealership that also provided automotive service.) 


Black’s Tire Service participates in career days hosted by local schools. We also offer a pre-apprentice program marketed specifically to automotive technician training programs at local high schools.  


This program, which follows a competency-based model, allows students to leave school - ideally for their fourth period class - and report to one of our facilities. We train them on oil and  filter service, tire rotation, tire mounting and balancing, tire repair, suspension inspection and brake inspection - all in an environment that emphasizes safety, timeliness and a high level of organization.  


The above services are also the duties of an entry-level lube and tire technician at our dealership. 


Each pre-apprentice is paid a predetermined rate. At the successful completion of their rotation, students receive a high school credit towards graduation and are registered and recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a pre-apprentice. 


The pre-apprentice training cycle coincides with the school year, which allows us to offer two cycles each year and one rotation during the summer. It allows students to learn in a real-world environment and test drive a tire and automotive career. It also allows Black’s Tire to develop a strong bench of trained talent to draw from. We have the potential to develop at least 150 trained lube and tire technicians every year! 


Black’s Tire Service also has established an apprenticeship program that has been approved by both North Carolina and South Carolina and is registered with the Department of Labor. 


When we identify a candidate for our apprenticeship program, we look at our pre-apprentices first. During our apprenticeship program, participants will master a comprehensive list of competencies that are commonly handled by professional automotive technicians. Each apprentice will complete a course of study - typically through a community college - that results in diploma-level coursework. Our formal coursework does not require an associate’s degree for completion, but each course completed plugs directly into an associate degree program. 


Our apprentices are paid on a graduated scale based on performance benchmarks and time, ending at approximately 70% of the salary of a master technician. 


In North Carolina, each apprentice receives a voucher to help offset the cost of their education and in South Carolina, a tax credit is issued to Black’s Tire Service for each apprentice. Upon successful completion of the program, the apprentice is registered and identified by the Department of Labor as a journeyman automotive technician. 


The pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are examples of how Black’s Tire Service is positioning itself for success in the current job market. 


Another need we have is for commercial tire/road service technicians. We have developed and registered an on-the-job learning program where all formal instruction is facilitated in-house. This program is targeted to those individuals who have no desire to go to school and helps fill one of the toughest positions in our organization. 


Those who complete this one-year program also are recognized by the Department of Labor. 


As a company, we are taking a proactive position in developing our future team member pipeline - not just hoping that the right person will appear at the door. (We also wrote our programs to include agricultural mechanic training.)  


The process has not been all rainbows and pixie dust. In fact, it has forced us to look hard at how we train our team members. It has shown us some of our strengths and it has shown us some opportunities for growth. (But that’s another article for another time!) 


As we ponder our industry’s need to recruit and develop new people, “The Starfish Story” by Loren Eiseley, which I will paraphrase, comes to mind. 


One day, a man was walking along a beach when he noticed a boy picking up something and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” 


The boy replied, “Throwing a star sh back in the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” 


“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of star fish? You can’t make a difference!” 


After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one!” 


We may never completely meet our industry’s need for technicians, but through involvement in our communities, recruiting in our schools and offering specific training, Black’s Tire will make a difference. We encourage you to do the same. 


Gary Collier handles recruitment, talent acquisition and training for Black’s Tire Service, which has retail, commercial and wholesale locations throughout North and South Carolina. He can be reached at gary.collier@blackstire.com

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