DETROIT -- Like a ball team building a farm system, Fiat Chrysler is expanding its feeder network of training schools to meet a rapidly growing need for service technicians.
The company plans to more than triple -- from 31 now to at least 100 by 2017 -- the number of community colleges, technical and other schools certified to train technicians for Mopar warranty work.
FCA US is expanding a pilot program it began earlier this year in Kenosha, Wis., called MoparCAP Local, to offer its technician training curriculum to other schools.
FCA is partnering with the National Coalition of Certification Centers to certify the curriculum so that it can be offered to colleges and schools of different sizes around the country.
"We'll bring two levels of our technical training curriculum to a school, and we'll combine our curriculum" with the school's existing auto mechanic training program, said John Fox, FCA's head of dealer training. "After two years, those students will graduate with a Level One Mopar warranty level certification."
And because of an earlier program that allows technicians in training to work -- under supervision -- on warranty work one level above their certification, the effect is a student with the ability to do midlevel warranty work directly out of school, Fox explained.
With just 31 schools across the nation now, "we don't currently have local coverage for our entire dealer network," Fox said.
The lack of locations means that technicians have to be away from home -- and work -- to get the training they need or take their classes completely online.
The automaker estimates that it needs to add a net of 5,000 technicians by 2018 simply because of the additional vehicles it is putting on the road.
FCA has taken several steps to attract and retain talented technicians, most recently including a partnership with Strayer University being piloted at the FCA US Southeast Business Center.
The program provides access to a no-cost four-year college degree to employees at participating dealerships.
Fox said that through the first half of 2015, FCA dealers have added a net of 1,000 technicians to their employment rolls.