PALATINE, Ill. — A new partnership between Chicagoland auto dealers and William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Ill., was designed to expand and diversify the area's pool of dealership worker candidates. Launched by Harper College’s dean of workforce and economics, Dr. Rebecca Lake, the registered apprenticeship program was funded by a $2.5 million White House grant initially approved during the Obama administration.
The registered apprenticeship program includes three areas of focus specific to the automotive industry: “Sales & Retail Management” for vehicle and aftermarket sales and sales management; “Banking & Finance” for F&I and accounting; and “Supply Chain & Logistics” for parts, service, and auction. Dealers can enroll an apprentice by hiring from Harper College’s pool of applicants or enrolling an incumbent worker who merits inclusion.
Lake said apprentices will benefit from theoretical and practical, in-field training and an assigned mentor and academic coach. “Our goal here at Harper College is to provide an education for the student and connect each apprentice to an employer, so that dealers can have a long-term strategy for building a pipeline of talent.”
Among the program’s dealer supporters is Martin Stilwell, COO of the Schaumburg, Ill.-based Patrick Auto Group. “We want to attract young talent into our industry and give them a chance to experience the many career opportunities within a dealership,” he said, noting the ability to move from track to track “should make their college experience more relevant and interesting, as they will see how their topics of studies relate to the real-world challenges in our business.”
“Business is ever-changing, and the only way for us to stay relevant is to evolve in this business,” said John Guido Jr., partner and general manager at Arlington Heights (Ill.) Ford. “Plus, we have the opportunity to pick the brains of the next generation and learn from them how to best demonstrate and communicate the latest technologies to customers.”
When it comes to the newly entering workforce, Guido added, “We are able to provide a proving ground for young people to gain the experience they need to have a successful career by developing a pipeline of ‘next up’ employees for our business to grow.”