Dealerships that aim to create training programs that assign veteran service technicians to mentor apprentice techs should follow clear guidelines, fixed ops experts say.
Dealership consultant Lee Harkins, CEO of M5 Management Services Inc., says one key is to prepare a detailed job description that spells out the responsibilities of the mentors and how they will be paid. In that way, he says, mentor applicants know what they're getting into and there won't be surprises down the road.
More advice from Harkins:
- "Interview the dickens" out of mentor candidates to find the right people, because they will be passing their attitudes on to younger techs. "You need to make sure you want four or five people just like him," Harkins says.
- Set goals for the mentors and apprentices to achieve every 90 days, and test the apprentices to see whether they have reached the objectives.
- Don't expect every apprentice to blossom into a productive master tech, even with the help of an effective mentor. "We have to kiss a bunch of frogs with these guys, because they either don't have the ability, the knowledge or the desire," Harkins says. "If they don't, you need to cut the line pretty quickly."
Dave Wright, fixed operations director at Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing, Mich., recently launched a mentoring program at his dealership. Among its major features:
- The mentors get to choose their apprentices. Shaheen Chevrolet has 38 lube techs in its quick-service department, and the mentors observed apprentice candidates and got to know them before making decisions.
- The starting pay plan for the apprentice techs includes both hourly and commission-based compensation. As they progress, they make a transition to less hourly pay and more commission pay.
- Mentors are paid based on the production of their apprentices, and they are assured they will make at least as much as they did when they were turning wrenches. "We put some guarantees in place so they wouldn't get hurt financially and not have to worry about making their paycheck," Wright says.