Ford is getting a positive response to its SOS – a Sponsor Our Students program that works with dealers to offer opportunities for students interested in meaningful careers as automotive technicians.
The SOS program can begin in high school and is about more than building skills – it’s also about developing connections. Ford and Lincoln dealers committed to sponsoring students will offer them a unique opportunity for work-based learning within their service department, including the support of a mentor
Dealers are encouraged to sponsor automotive students of all ages to give even younger students the chance to see their academic lessons put into practice, and to get an early taste of what can be a very rewarding career.
More than 1,000 Ford and Lincoln dealers have enrolled since the program’s start in April and have committed to sponsoring over 3,600 students. Ford’s goal is to see no fewer than 5,000 students receive this valuable work-based experience before the end of the year.
“Recruiting and retaining quality auto technicians is increasingly becoming one of the biggest challenges facing the retail automotive industry today and why building the dealer technician pipeline is so important, says Frederiek Toney, vice president, Ford Customer Service Division.
“The average dealer will spend tens of thousands on a technician to be trained in a dealership over the course of 5-8 years. This program and other Ford technician training programs help to reduce the time and cost associated with recruiting and training new hires.”
Ford expects that many students sponsored through SOS will be participants in Ford’s Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program, which is currently available at 1,100+ high schools and post-secondary schools around the country. Students at these schools have access to much of the same advanced training courses that are used to train Ford dealership technicians, further enhancing their learning experience at the dealership.
Students hired by their sponsoring Ford or Lincoln dealer will have the opportunity to receive accelerated training within Ford’s training network. For many, this program can streamline the path to becoming a highly trained automotive technician. Additionally, sponsored students that are hired will receive a 20% discount in the Rotunda Technician Tool Program, easing the pathway into the trade.
“Our goal is to build senior master technicians from the ground up and we are doing this for the customer. In the past, we had specialized technicians who waited till another tech finished their work before they could run diagnostics on another issue. Here, master technicians can cover bumper to bumper and clear a ticket to get the customer out the door quicker. This increases our efficiency as a shop,” says Zach Brandt, general manager at Capital Ford in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Adds Brandt, “These (sponsored) technicians are also more loyal to you and are better techs for it. Their pay level is based on training requirements so technicians are motivated to learn more knowing they can make a good living in this line of work.”
The dealer enrollment package includes a playbook for retailers that will reflect the best ways to attract, train, and retain students as technicians. Dealers will also have the support of their OEM field teams throughout their enrollment. Currently, the Sponsor Our Students program is offered in the U.S. but expect to see rapid expansion soon.