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[Podcast] Apprentice Program – Grow Your Own Technician [THA 185]

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Pete McNeil is a second-generation family-owned business that started out as a Volkswagen specialist. They quickly recognized their potential for all makes and models and expanded their service offerings. During this time, they joined the NAPA AutoCare program, expanded their footprint in the Salt Lake valley and became a pillar in the automotive repair industry.

In 2018 alone, McNeil’s expanded their Sandy location to 16 bays to help accommodate their growing business, training center and partnership with local schools for the continued growth of their apprenticeship program. During this time McNeil’s also took advantage of the Interior ProImage program and remodeled their entire showroom! This included new counters for their 4 Service Advisors, new epoxy flooring, signage, and upgraded comfortable furniture and fixtures! This is truly a place where their customers can relax while having their vehicle repaired.

In addition, Pete opened a 2nd location in Riverton, Utah in May of 2019. Pete is very involved in the community both locally and abroad He is active in the local Church Youth Conference, Angel Hands, which assists people with disabilities.

Very active in youth soccer with contributions and cars washed to raise money for Sparta-United. He has donated time and resources to “Sandy Pride” which helps residents clean up and beautify the city.

Jake Sorensen is the 2019 NAPA ASE Technician of the Year and 2019 Ratchet + Wrench All Star technician of the year. He is an ASE Master technician with L1,2 and 3 advanced level certifications. He is the shop manager and diagnostic technician at McNeil’s Auto Care in Sandy, UT where he helped develop an apprenticeship program that is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. This program has graduated several high performing automotive technicians and was used by NAPA Auto Care as a template for their automotive apprenticeship program. Jake also developed the curriculum for an automotive course that he teaches at an adult education high school.

Alexia Murphy is Program Specialist, Department of Workforce Services, State of Utah

Key Talking Points:

  • Sustainability- Without a program, there “will not” be enough technicians for the independents to be able to compete, or grow in this industry.
  • By 2026 we are going to need 46,000 additional technicians (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Less coming into the trade
  • You cannot afford to take your ‘lead’ technicians to teach a new member of the team
  • You need a roadmap and an officially approved apprentice program to support a mentor, training and a career path
  • (Jake Sorensen) Benefits from apprenticeship program Common questions:
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Answer: How much are you losing by not having enough technicians? That number far exceeds the cost of training. Also, the program is not as expensive as most believe. On average, an apprentice will start producing more revenue than the cost of their employment and training within three months!
  • What if I train and invest in someone, and they leave?
  • Answer: If you: choose the right candidate, offer free training, assist with tool purchases and treat them well through their apprenticeship, they will appreciate what you have provided and stay around for the long haul. McNeil’s still employs all three of the technicians that graduated from their program.
  • Maybe more importantly, what if you and every other shop owner sits back and does nothing?It is important to remember that if you lose an apprentice to another shop, that shop is no longer looking for a technician, which may free someone up for you.
  • Department of Labors throughout the country is willing to help for employer and apprentice by providing moniesStates vary. Meet with then and ask them questions and show them your program
  • Skilled trades are advertising to bring in young people into their industry through apprentice programs.
  • Not every candidate will work outA big problem is communication
  • Every other week you need a sit down to review and talk about the next two weeks.Discover if the training methods are working
  • If you find the right candidate, it will work
  • Apprentice vs 2-year collegeStudent loan debt
  • Tool investment
  • Not as much hands on as in shop
  • Schools let them know that when they enter the job market they can get top pay
  • Some schools do not have the latest equipment
  • Many counselors are naive about the industryWe must get involved and change the perception
  • Their supplier, NAPA, is providing incentives along the way. Toolbox, tool credit.
  • Incentives (rewards) for the apprentice to earn
  • Just because you are providing free training, they still have rent, car payments, food. They have a life. Create incentives along the way to keep them motivated and engaged while they are growing their skillsHelp shape their attitude for our trade
  • Departments of labor can help you find training
  • Need a technician. Start with an apprentice.
  • There is no silver bullet to growing technicians.There will be an investment.
  • We must get involved with our community and department of labor.
  • Share your success story
  • STARTFind a group to help you. Example NAPA has this programThere is also a program from the IGONC in North Carolina and many others.
  • Look at an apprentice program as a shop tool, a recipe for success
  • Contact (reach out) to your Department of Labor
  • Look for your candidate by advertising.Jake’s inbox was flooded with applicants.
  • Look for key indicators for holding a job even if not paid shadowing type of experience
  • Their apprentice program has spiked ASE certifications among their technicians
  • The program is broken into 9 stages over two years.  Requirements along the way
  • Training classes, virtual, leader-led
  • Demonstrations from equipment people
  • Online video’s
  • Be sure you have an LMS (learning management system) to help track the progress
  • There is a competency section
  • They must their mentor that they learned and can do the tasks that they learned
  • The quality of work in the shop improved because they are a teaching center
  • An apprentice is like a doctors residency to earn certification  
  • Jake Sorensen: We all need to buy into certifications.
  • ASE is a very valuable resource for our industry to separate the professionals from the DIY’ers. You cannot become an electrician or a plumber just because you helped a friend or family member on a home project. Yet we accept that exact same experience in place of certification in our industry all the time. Apprenticeships help force up and coming technicians to become certified.I hear people all the time say “I’ve known plenty of ASE Master Techs that don’t know what they are doing and plenty of really good mechanics that just can’t pass a test,” Well I can tell you I have seen it the other way a whole lot more. I know we like to compare ourselves to the medical profession quite a bit. Would you go to a doctor or see a Nurse that was not certified just because they couldn’t pass a test? Not a chance, so why are we so willing to accept that excuse from our professionals? 
  • Pete has been tracking his apprentice program for four years and has numbers that show a growth in sales from the training and team approach to share work and build the next generation.
  • Other episodes on Apprentice ProgramsRR 335 Build Your Own Apprentice Program - Dwayne Myers
  • RR 482 IGONC Apprentice Program. Three Students Speak.
  • FTR 064 - Mike Davidson. Find Your Apprentices
  • RR 383 - AAPEXedu 2018 - Road to Great Technicians - Roundtable
  • THA 087 - Automotive Career’s Start in High School and in the Home
  • FTR 007 - Matt Fanslow - Integrate the Malleable Young Apprentice Into Your Shop
  • RR 353 - Kyle Holt - S/P2 - Helping Entry Level Technicians Enter and Stay in the Industry


  • A special thanks to Pete McNeil, Jake Sorensen, and Alexia Murphy for their contribution to the aftermarket.
  • Link to the ‘BOOKS‘ page highlighting all books discussed in the podcast library HERE. Leaders are readers.
  • Listen for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spreaker, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Podchaser, and many more. Mobile Listening APP’s HERE
  • Find every podcast episode HERE.
  • Every episode segmented by Series HERE.
  • Key Word Search HERE.

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This episode is brought to you by Shop-Ware Shop Management. It’s time to run your business at its fullest potential with the industry’s leading technology. Shop-Ware Shop Management will increase your efficiency with lightning-fast workflows, help your staff capture more sales every day, and create very happy customers who promote your business. Shops running Shop-Ware have More Time and generate More Profit—join them! Schedule a free live demonstration and find out how 30 minutes can transform your shop at getshopware.com


This episode is brought to you buy Shop Marketing Pros. Your guides are Kim and Brian Walker with a rich history as shop owners and industry veterans. When someone searches for a shop, who are they finding? Your competitors? It should be you! The good people over at Shop Marketing Pros know how to drive website traffic and make Google work for you! www.shopmarketingpros.com

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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