Bill Skinner, the first student to be hired through the mentorship program.

Bill Skinner, the first student to be hired through the mentorship program. 

The fleet industry has an aging workforce and a limited number of interested, young, and trained applicants. Chesterfield County, Va.’s fleet manager hopes to rectify that problem within his county with a fleet mentorship program, and so far, he’s gained two technicians because of it.

Jeffery Jeter's program has been so successful that neighboring counties have asked him to help them set up the same type of program with them, he said. Five students applied for his mentorship program this year, and out of the five, he hopes to hire at least three of them, Jeter said.

“I can remember back in the day when I first started, you could have all the schooling but if you didn’t have the hands-on experience then nobody would hire you,” Jeter said. “That’s why I wanted to start this program, to actually give them hands-on experience so they can go out into the world and find a good job.”

The program started two years ago when Jeter began talking with the instructor at Chesterfield County School System’s tech center. Jeter and the instructor came up with the idea of hiring high school seniors in their last year of automotive tech class for a mentorship program within the county’s fleet.

The students would gain school credit, hands-on fleet experience, and around $11 an hour. Students who exceled in the program and graduated high school without letting their grades slip would then be interviewed for the county’s technician apprenticeship program.

Jeter would hire the most qualified students and provide them with additional technician training at the fleet facility. If a position was available within the county fleet, it would be offered to those students.

However, not all apprentices are hired. Often times, there are more apprentices than there are open positions. For those that aren’t hired onto the county fleet, the program provides assistance in finding a job outside of the county.

Most recently, Jeter helped one of his apprentices land a job at a local Honda dealership and continues to help his other apprentice in his job search.