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Overcoming the Challenges of Apprenticeship Programs [RR 891]

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Jake Sorensen shares his experiences with running an apprentice program at McNeil's Auto Care. Initially, they were able to find suitable applicants easily, but as time went on, they faced challenges in finding the right candidates.  Jake also talked about the practical skills gap he has observed in the younger generation. He shared an anecdote about an apprentice who had never drilled a hole in a wall or hung anything before. Despite this knowledge gap, Jake believes that with the right attitude and willingness to learn, the right apprentices can become great technicians in the future.

Jake Sorensen, 2019 NAPA ASE Technician of the Year and 2019 Ratchet + Wrench All-Star technician of the year. Shop manager and diagnostic technician at McNeil’s Auto Care in Sandy, UT. Listen to Jake’s previous episodes HERE

Show Notes

  • The challenges of finding qualified applicants (00:03:33) Jake discusses the difficulties his shop faced in finding suitable applicants for their apprentice program.
  • The importance of communication skills (00:05:24) Jake talks about the struggle with communication and the need to adapt to the communication style of the younger generation.
  • The strength of written skills in the younger generation (00:07:26) Jake highlights the writing skills of the younger generation and how they excel in written communication compared to verbal communication.
  • The challenges of practical skills (00:08:35) The lack of practical skills among the younger generation and the need to walk them through basic tasks.
  • The lengthened early stages of apprenticeship (00:10:54) The early stages of apprenticeship now take longer due to the need to teach every step from the ground up.
  • Knowing when to let go of the wrong fit (00:14:12) The importance of recognizing within 30 to 60 days if an apprentice is the right fit and being willing to let go if they are not.
  • Recruiting through word of mouth (00:17:23) Discussion on the challenges of recruiting individuals interested in working with their hands and fixing cars.
  • Teaching soft skills in apprenticeship programs (00:18:37) Exploring the need to incorporate soft skills training into apprenticeship programs and bridging the gap between technical and communication skills.
  • Breaking the barrier to entry for tools (00:21:26) Explaining how McNeil's Auto Care helps apprentices with tool acquisition through providing a shop cart, toolbox, tool credits, and a tool allowance.
  • The challenges of apprenticeship programs (00:26:43) Discussion on the time and effort required to build a technician through an apprenticeship program.
  • Apprenticeship vs College (00:27:05) Comparison of the value and hands-on experience gained through an apprenticeship program versus attending college.
  • The role of a mentor in the shop (00:28:10) The difficulties and balancing act of being a mentor while still working on cars in the shop.


Thanks to our Partner, NAPA Auto Care


Learn more about NAPA Auto Care and the benefits of being part of the NAPA family by visiting https://www.napaonline.com/en/auto-care

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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