Program lays foundation for loyalty.
Cars are just crazy with technology now! The way of the future is to get young people in early and get them trained right.
You need young people with good skills to deal with all the new technology. We take it one step further with a mentoring program—we pick one of the store technicians and have them sign an agreement together with an apprentice, and they work together for four years. That way, they always have one person that they can work with directly.
Having a relationship is the key, the apprentice can feel confident about asking questions and not feel dumb. There are a lot of questions to ask when you’re learning a trade! You don’t want to be belittled or put down by asking those questions.
In Craftsman Collision’s world, we’ll have a body apprentice and paint apprentice. These days we focus on body technicians, it seems more difficult to train body technicians than it is to hire painters. That may be due to the cost output at the start for an apprentice body technician—they need to spend a lot of money to buy a whole toolkit with hand tools and air tools. But for the paint apprentice, they could almost walk in and start sanding a car. Further on, there’s a bit of a cost for a paint gun, but body apprentices probably pay at least double, if not triple, as opposed to a paint apprentice, for a toolkit.
These young guys don’t come in with a lot of cash in their pockets, so we help them out. We’ve built a toolkit for both body and paint. If you sign up for the full mentoring program, we provide you with a full toolbox of basic hand tools and air tools, worth about $3,500. If you’re a paint apprentice, you get a prep cart with primer gun and paint gun, plus sanders and whatever you need, worth close to $2,000.
It helps keep them with us, providing further incentive to stay with our company and hopefully not jump around. And it also gives them the peace of mind that they’re not borrowing tools and worried about money. We want them to learn the trade and learn it properly.
First year is toughest
We also provide an incentive for the mentor—in the first year they get a certain percentage of the hours that the apprentice produces. Even in the second, third, and fourth year, we’ll pay them an hour a day to work with the apprentice so they’re still getting compensated for the time that they’re spending with that apprentice.
The first year is always the toughest! If the mentor is in the middle of a job and the apprentice comes over and has a question, the mentor might struggle with that if there wasn’t an incentive. But knowing that they’ve signed a contract and are being compensated helps to work together with the apprentice.
Plus, the mentors have a real sense of pride when the apprentice has completed their program to actually know that they were the person who gave the apprentice the knowledge to get through and build a career.