Building an apprenticeship program

The technician shortage has caused many fleets and service providers to come up with creative solutions to ensuring that their bays are staffed with qualified technicians.

Chris Disantis, director of training and field technical support at Aim NationaLease, developed a program to grow the company’s own diesel technicians. He shared details of the program at a recent NationaLease member meeting.

Here are some key elements of the training program Disantis developed:

  • 42-months in duration
  • Complete benefit package during training
  • Tools provided during training and tech owns them after completing the program
  • Raises based on passing written and skills tests

Disantis did not reinvent the wheel when coming up with content for the training program but rather relied on existing material from the Technology & Maintenance Council, Mobile Air Conditioning Society, Thermo King, Carrier, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and others.

Curriculum covered preventive maintenance for tractors and trailers, foundation brakes, automatic slack adjusters, anti-lock braking systems, roll stability systems, air conditioning, refrigeration systems, engine diagnostics, electrical systems along with general truck systems (lift gates, doors, suspensions, 5th wheels, clutches, wheel bearings, etc.).

One of the key elements necessary for success, according to Disantis, is buy-in at the top level of the organization as well as careful selection of candidates for the program.

The recruiting process needs to include:

  • A complete profile of each candidate
  • Specific interview questions
  • A team interview
  • A grading scale for evaluating each candidate

Once candidates have been selected, they need to sign a formal contract, which covers all aspects of the apprenticeship.

At the end of the program hold a graduation ceremony and be sure that members of upper management are present. The event should include graduation certificates and top technician awards.

At the end of the program, give the technicians a formal job offer letter. In order to retain the technicians after they have completed the apprenticeship program make sure you share with them the career path you envision for them.

Growing your own technicians requires a formalized program but pays big dividends. Just ask Chris.

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