Developing Young Automotive Technicians

Randy Begin has some radical ideas on how to develop young talent in the automotive repair field.

Begin started working as a full-time mechanic in 1982 and now owns two automotive repair shops in San Diego. During that time, Begin has seen plenty of changes in the industry, giving him a unique insight into the industry, specifically when it comes to training new technicians.

In a way, his career path mirrors the advice he is now offering. Originally, Begin studied aeronautical engineering at San Diego State University. When he realized that the wages available to him after his degree would be similar to what he was already earning as a part-time mechanic, he threw his school books into the trash bin and never looked back.

He obtained his California Smog certification in 1982 and continued to rack up ASE certifications. He tried to buy his first shop, Mission Hills Auto Repair, in 1993 but was rebuffed by the owner. However, Begin was persistent and was able to acquire the shop in 2008. In 2012, he acquired Cass Street Automotive, which has evolved into repairs and restorations of classic automobiles.

Begin credits other mechanics who took the time to mentor him when he started out, which allowed him to now excel in the industry. He eschews the vocational schools when looking for new talent and instead tours the car show scenes and go kart tracks looking for youths with an aptitude and passion. Once they come to work, he follows these five basic principles:

1) Be available. He tells all his employees to call him anytime with an issue and believes that between FaceTime and the Internet, they can come up with a solution to any mechanical problem.

2) Offer short fifteen-minute skill sessions on a consistent basis. Begin laments that some trainees need help with basic math and common electrical tests but is willing to invest the time to have them learn the basics.

3) Account for their hours at the shop. Not all their workweek may be billable but show them how they were productive to the shop. Detailing how many oil changes they did or how many hours they spent degreasing parts will show them they are valued.

4) Let them learn. A trainee might not recognize the easiest or best way to accomplish a task at first but over time they will teach themselves to be effective and get things done the right way.

5) Recognize that there are bound to be mistakes. Catch them before they ruin a project but accept that mistakes and errors will occur by not hovering over them.

Randy Begin is the owner of Mission Hills Auto Repair and Cass Street Automotive and a member of WD-40’s PRO Board which tests new products with the professionals in the field.

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