VGCC, Charles Boyd grow partnership to drive workforce development
Vance-Granville Community College and Henderson-based Charles Boyd Chevrolet Buick GMC are teaming up to try to meet the demand for more skilled workers in the automotive service field.
According to Tony Crabtree, the service manager for the dealership, VGCC and Charles Boyd have worked together for many years, particularly through the college’s Automotive Systems Technology program. The company is also a longtime supporter of the VGCC Endowment Fund and was a sponsor of the recent 35th annual Golf Tournament. Now, however, the dealership is working for an enhanced partnership, because of the urgent need to build a pipeline of future employees.
“Technicians are getting scarce,” Crabtree said. “Automotive is a good field to go into, because the demand is there, so technicians are making great money. VGCC is stepping up to help us get more students interested in this career.”
The strategy being developed now is a formal paid apprenticeship program, in which VGCC Automotive Systems Technology students will work alongside Charles Boyd employees for an extended period of time (perhaps as long as two years) while continuing their studies. Students could, for example, go to class at VGCC in the morning and then work at Charles Boyd every afternoon during a typical week. Crabtree has personal experience with such a program. “I started in this field as an apprentice at age 16 in Durham through a high school program,” he said.
The field of servicing cars and trucks has changed dramatically through Crabtree’s years in the business. “There is so much to learn now. The hard part is not replacing some part of the car, but the biggest thing is diagnosing what’s wrong with it, using computers. Some cars have 50-60 computers on them. And we want to give students the hands-on experience so they can see how complex and rewarding it can be.”
At the same time, Crabtree said, apprenticeships help students “test-drive” their career. “It would give students a taste of this field and they could find out if it really fits them,” Crabtree said. “It’s a win-win for all parties, the students and us.” Crabtree and his colleagues could train apprentices in the particular way that the dealership operates and could incorporate General Motors’ apprentice training program into the student experience. Training is essential to work as a technician at Charles Boyd, anyway.
“Our goal is quality work, and our technicians have to be trained constantly,” Crabtree said. “There are always new vehicles coming out that we’ve got to learn. I have to meet certifications myself.”
He added that the term “grease monkey” is a relic of the past. “Technicians are respected now,” Crabtree said. “With technology now, you can’t fix a car as a mechanic under the shade tree. And everybody wants their car to run, so there’s always a need.”
Eddie Ellington, the Director of Business Development & Public Relations at Charles Boyd Chevrolet, said that the dealership is fortunate to have Crabtree’s knowledge, experience and professionalism to help collaborate with VGCC. “GM Technicians are held to a higher standard and training,” Ellington said. “When you enter into an apprenticeship, you are learning what we strive for and our goal is that when you’re done, you’ll move right into full-time employment within our company.”