Apprenticeship Program Expands to Address Shortage of Service Technicians
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Apprenticeship Program Expands to Address Shortage of Technicians

With an estimated 25% of Cincinnati-area auto service bays unused for lack of service technicians, and 700 area technician job openings posted on job recruitment sites, an apprenticeship program to address that shortage is expanding to Cincinnati. Automotive Apprentice Group (AAG) matches auto dealership and truck center operations with area residents pursuing a path to a well-paying career. AAG was initially launched in Louisville, Kentucky.

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AAG was created by a former owner of numerous auto dealer operations throughout the nation, and in partnership with an internationally renowned workforce development expert and architect of a highly successful AAG-like apprenticeship in Australia.

The first-of-its-kind apprenticeship in the U.S., this is a two-year program where apprentices are compensated at a competitive wage and with no out-of-pocket expenses (thus, no incurred debt). AAG apprentices learn and develop skills through on-the-job training at local dealerships, discovery-based e-learning, and hands-on training and practice. Upon completion of the program, the apprentice earns a national certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. All necessary tools and a computer are provided to each apprentice.

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For participating auto dealerships and truck centers the program is completely turnkey – AAG manages apprentice recruitment, conducting of candidate interviews, orientation, soft skills training, payroll and compensation, insurance, mentoring and ongoing career coaching – as well as the education and training for each apprentice.

In Louisville, jobs provided to apprentices upon program completion average an initial annual salary about $60,000. Though just ramping up in Cincinnati, several area residents have already enrolled in the program. 

Though AAG apprenticeships are for anyone with an interest, they have been especially attractive to men and women 18 to 30 years old for whom college is not an option or a preference.

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AAG was founded by David Peterson, who previously owned auto dealerships around the nation for more than 40 years. He has witnessed firsthand the critical need of the next generation of skilled service technicians. Nationally, there are nearly 700,000 job openings for service technicians.

“The technician shortage is an industrywide challenge, yet there has never been a truly national program in place to address the shortage,” Peterson said. “I cherish the auto dealership industry, and this is something of a ‘calling’ for me.”

Global Search for Most Successful Model
Peterson said he scoured the globe in search of the most successful training and apprenticeship programs – and the brains behind them – that brought together motivated people eager to start new careers with employers who were eager to retain them. Ultimately, he tapped the expertise of Australian business and employment authority Nick Wyman, author of Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need.

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“The fundamental premise of the Australian apprentice model, and certainly of AAG, is straightforward,” said AAG president Joe Atkinson. “It’s connecting career minded people such as recent high school graduates or those currently working unrewarding jobs with career opportunities in need of motivated, skilled people. The key to success is taking a wholistic approach to the challenges of identifying, vetting, teaching, hiring, and retaining good, long-term, committed career technicians.”

Area dealers on board with concept
Several Cincinnati area dealers have already partnered with AAG to mentor – and ultimately hire – apprentices.

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“For us, it’s a great business decision,” said Ed Keady, managing partner at Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati/Mercedes-Benz of West Chester. “By committing to a proven apprenticeship program, you’re addressing the shortage of technicians – which impacts the dealership and our customers. It also provides a pathway to promising careers for young people – or anyone – looking for a well-paying job that will always be in demand.”

Atkinson notes that the AAG formula sets a high standard for its apprentices. Only a portion of those who apply and who are interviewed are accepted into the program. “Thus, while the AAG offerings and its related high standards may not be for everyone, for those who are vetted and accepted … and for the dealerships that hire them … it is a win/win with promising long-term dividends,” Atkinson said. “And for a young adult who takes on a career as an auto technician, it is a career that can support them for the rest of their life.”

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Anyone interested in exploring the apprentice program can visit https://aagamerica.com/

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