Driving students to success

Partnership with local car business creates pipeline of skilled workers

 student works on carIn recent years, the automotive industry has been plagued by workforce attrition, high employee turnover, and shallow applicant pools. Consequently, businesses are facing a reality where quality workers are becoming increasingly hard to find. This issue is one that executives at The Premier Collection, a car dealership group based in Elmsford, know all too well. To combat the problem, the company has partnered with the Southern Westchester SWBOCES’ Valhalla Careers Campus to identify, train, and ultimately hire students in an effort to create a pipeline of skilled technicians and automotive professionals for years to come.

“We’re excited to be partnering with a prestigious car dealership that shares our values around community and service-based learning,” said Garrett Jennings, SWBOCES Work-Based Learning Coordinator.

In his role, Mr. Jennings connects local entrepreneurs and businesses to students who are seeking job development and placement.

The newly formed partnership allows students to explore their career goals, interests, and abilities while applying their academic and technical knowledge and skills in a part-time work setting at The Premier Collection’s Volvo and Lincoln car dealerships in Elmsford.  

“This is a tangible experience for them, and by becoming part of the pipeline, students can find out what avenue of the industry they’d like to pursue, whether it’s the front office, parts, body shop, or technician,” said Principal Evangelo Michas. “The opportunities are endless.”

To further support the partnership, The Premier Collection recently donated $5,000 to SWBOCES for automotive training and professional development.     

“We are a local, family-owned business, and we’re always looking for ways to add value back to the community,” said Premier Collection Group Manager Jeremy Abramson. “By helping to fund this program, we’re able to give back, and in turn, the community gives back to us by providing these talented students.”

Mr. Abramson emphasized that the company was founded on four business principles: integrity, fair and competitive pricing, excellent service, and respect for the individual.

 “And by service, it’s not just how customers are treated at our locations, but excellence in community service,” he said.  

Mr. Abramson and his colleagues hope the collaboration with SWBOCES provides a benchmark for other work-based learning programs. 

If you look at it from the perspective of a Fortune 500 company, they hire and train interns in advance of their graduating year, so that’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Parts Manager John DeAngelis.

With nearly 50 percent of students dropping out of postsecondary automotive programs, Mr. DeAngelis points out that the program is predicated on the fact that there isn’t a clear path for a high school student pursuing a career in the automotive field.

students and executives

“The need is even greater for us, we’re trying to establish a formal career path for the automotive industry that previously wasn’t there,” he noted.  

Frankie Torres, head recruiter at The Premier Collection, underscores the need for not only internships but mentorships. Mr. Torres, like many others in the automotive industry, came through the same work-based learning channels and knows what it takes to be successful in the industry. He guides students from the start as lot attendants and helps them achieve the status of technician, familiarizing themselves with all aspects of a car dealership along the way.

“We want to bring kids in and teach them they can learn a whole lot at both school and in the field,” said Mr. Torres.   

“The students working with us have been great. They’re punctual, dressed in uniform properly and respectful—BOCES is providing us with turnkey kids.”

SWBOCES students who are currently working at The Premier Collection include Kevin Molina (Service Porter), Ernesto Espinoza (Car Wash), Anthony Fuentes (Service Porter), and Larry Fuentes (Volvo Express Technician).

“BOCES has been a great opportunity. It helped prepare me for this, from the basic oil change and brakes to the more advanced jobs. My teacher, Michael Ward is a former Volvo tech, so hopefully what he taught me will help in this role,” Kevin said of the program.

“It’s been awesome. They’ve trained me well and have helped me out step by step. The people here are great, it’s been a fun experience.”

Assistant Principal Phil Donohue is thrilled about the opportunity the program provides for his students.

“Having a standard place to send our kids is very helpful. It’s nice for students to have this opportunity to see what the industry is like firsthand,” Mr. Donohue said.

Down the road, Mr. Jennings hopes to further develop the program by designing and implementing a pre-apprenticeship bridge system for seniors at the Center for Career Services. Through this program, students will train for industry certifications while gaining valuable work experience, complete with mentors and coaches. It will also provide the opportunity for students to pursue a postsecondary education in the automotive field at institutions like Rockland Community College.

“With a stronger pipeline, our students will develop the core skills needed to succeed in the workforce. It’s vital that we support and train our future workers by providing valuable experiences such as this,” he remarked.