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Web Browser: Mentors at Work

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Currently this industry loses seven out of 10 apprentice candidates in the first 18 months and once they leave, they often leave the auto industry for good. Collision shops, insurers, mechanical shops and dealerships cannot afford to allow this to continue,” says Mentors At Work president and CEO Mark Claypool.

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Mentors At Work is an organization providing online apprenticeship programs for collision and other automotive shops. Having worked in occupational mentoring and training for nearly 20 years, Claypool founded Mentors At Work because he recognized a need for an effective apprenticeship program for the technical trades, including collision repair.

Mentors At Work provides a medium for building staff using Web-based training and tracking to help the trades attract, train and retain a better employee base. The site also allows shops to walk through the system to get an idea of how it might work for them.

Each online mentoring system is offered on a yearly subscription basis that can be renewed at the end of one year. The site offers special pricing when users register more than one facility.

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The program also provides users with recruitment tools to help them to retain employees who aren’t already master technicians.

The tools include:

  • Web-based training modules;
  • Software that tests understanding of the system;
  • The task list specific to collision repair with sorting features to customize your apprentice’s training; and
  • Personalized administration sites for shops to control the program.

Mentors At Work shop owners develop their technicians by helping them to attract apprentices; providing information on successful training methods; enhancing owner or manager knowledge of his role in staff development; and establishing and evaluating mentor and apprentice candidates to determine if they can be successful before the program is started.

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The site also regularly evaluates the program’s success from the owner’s, mentor’s and apprentice’s point of view throughout the apprenticeship process, following specific technical standards used by the collision industry. It also outlines pay methods that recognize the contribution of the mentor and the apprentice.

How does it work? Simple. Shops fill out a brief online form and choose “mentor” or “apprentice.” An owner or general manager can then add his own observations of the trainee or trainer and receive an instant analysis. They also can have the candidates take the same evaluation themselves, or both. The screening provides the shop with a scoring range of categories including “top candidate,” “good candidate,” a “possible candidate with guidance,” a “doubtful candidate” or one who “does not fit the profile” of a candidate.

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Says Claypool: “The critical shortage of technicians forces owners and managers back to the proven system of apprenticing, and progressive shops are starting to act more like responsible human resource directors.”

And the Mentors At Work screening tool eliminates much of the guesswork. Correctly matching a qualified trainee to a qualified mentor allows rapid increases in shop productivity. “Unfortunately” says Claypool, “most shops hire a new recruit and force him onto a technician who may be qualified technically, but may not have the ability to train the person. Good technicians do not necessarily make good teachers. To retain new employees, especially young people, you can’t just hire them, throw them to the wolves in the shop and pray that it works out.”

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Writer Cheryl McMullen is associate editor of BodyShop Business.

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