Bolivar High School program combats auto technician shortage

KOLR10 Daybreak

BOLIVAR, Mo. – As cars continue to develop new features, some auto shops are having trouble finding qualified technicians. Kelly Grant is a Ford dealer in Bolivar.

“If we’re gonna survive and continue to fix cars in this world that continues to become more advanced technologically, we’re gonna have to have the people that can do that,” Grant said.

But, OzarksFirst learned Bolivar High School is helping fight this shortage. Not only that, it is helping set up its students for a job after graduation.

For example, Bolivar alumnus Michael Deason has a part-time job at Bill Grant Ford. He works as a lubrication technician.

“I pretty much just pull your vehicle in, we go through all your fluids,” Deason said. “So your brakes, power steering, all that. Rotate your tires, check your brakes, check your suspension and change your oil. Mark it down for the next time you come back in.”

Getting hired wasn’t a challenge for Deason because he worked at the dealership in high school.

“In my junior year, I started working here as part of the BoMo Works program,” Deason said.

BoMo Works gives students a classroom education and hands-on job training while they’re still in school.

During his time in the program, Deason took an apprenticeship. He gained more than 2,000 hours of paid work experience.

“I’ve learned a lot from experience,” Deason said. “I have more confidence when I come in to work on a vehicle. I came into [Bill Grant Ford] being able to take stuff off and examine it a lot better for how it works. You can get to see a lot of vehicles come in with different mechanisms and parts and how it all operates. There’s a lot to remember.”

The partnership between Bolivar Schools and Bill Grant Ford began two years ago. Kelly Grant says it came around at the right time.

“I had already been facing technician challenges in our shop,” Grant said. “I’ve realized through trial and error that the best way to do this in a rural dealership is to grow your own talent. So we’re looking for those students who want to be in our business. BoMo works is allowing us to channel that focus.”

It has worked well for Grant’s business. He says the answer to the auto technician shortage is getting more schools involved.

“We have to heighten the awareness in the education system for the opportunities in our automotive industry,” Grant said. “That’s our number one challenge right now. There may not be a realization of the challenges that we have and the opportunities for compensation and career advancement.”

Grant says around 46,000 automotive technicians are estimated to need to be replaced within the next five years.

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