Can’t Find Good Technicians? Here’s One Solution

When Dave Cole at the City of Glendale, Calif. could not find qualified technicians for his shop, he partnered with a local college to set up an internship program.

May 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by Paul Dexler - Also by this author

Finding good technicians for your shop is something akin to the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody is able to do anything about it. And everyone, from local garage owners through dealership service managers to fleet managers, complains about the difficulty of finding knowledgeable technicians who really want to work.

Dave Cole did something about it. Cole, who runs the service shop for the City of Glendale, Calif., got tired of finding no applicants, candidates whose backgrounds were shady, or backyard mechanics without professional experience.

Cole said a meeting with a friend, an instructor at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, produced an idea — develop an internship program. Cole approached Pasadena City College (PCC), which also offers an automotive technician course. Pasadena, Calif., is located adjacent to Glendale, so distance presented no difficulties.

The PCC staff was interested in Cole’s proposal. “I got involved with the college because I’m on the advisory committee for the automotive section,” Cole said, adding, “We meet every six months to discuss buildings, future programs, whatever they’re working on.”

Dave Cole (r) with intern Luis Rodriguez, says the program prepares students to work for any city or public sector fleet.

According to Cole, the City of Glendale is a hiring magnet. “People want to work for the City,” Cole noted, “So I went to the advisory committee, which includes all the instructors, and told them we should put something together. ‘Let’s work together to develop an internship program.’ ”

Interns Qualified for Work

Part of the problem Cole and others face in assembling a knowledgeable and enthusiastic workforce is a lack of qualified applicants. “We get some people who, when we ask what their experience is, answer, ‘I worked on cars with my Dad in our backyard.’ And that was all the experience they really had,” Cole explained.

Affiliating the internship program with the PCC auto mechanics program has made a big difference. “We get good, smart young people who are going to school and want to be in this trade,” Cole said. “It’s been fabulous.”

He noted the program brings people knowledgeable about electronics, Snap-On scanners, and the basics of today’s increasingly diverse and complicated vehicles, and who are ready to learn about the City’s specialized vehicles.

“If they have a good basic skill set, they can come in here and learn things they didn’t learn in college,” Cole explained.

The City of Glendale intern program complements the PCC program in which students learn electronics, engine rebuilding, and transmission rebuilding. At the City, students learn hydraulics, air brakes, and heavy equipment, and work on everything from lawn mowers to trash trucks.

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