Best Practices for Automotive Internships in Northern California Community College Auto Programs
Several colleges and auto employers have asked why should they develop an internship program for the automotive technician students?
Many colleges lack the capacity to develop and manage automotive employer relationships that are the foundation for the internship programs. Employers can hire full-time employees and bypass the mentoring and coaching that young, inexperienced interns require. So, why develop an automotive internship program?
For students, there are critical entry barriers that they must consider before embarking on a career as an automotive service technician.
To be hired as an automotive service technician, candidates are expected to have completed a certain number of technical automotive classes/certifications, have car repair experience, and their own tools. Internship programs allow students to work in the automotive technician field for a specified period of time, allowing them to ‘test the waters” before committing to this career pathway.
Nevertheless structuring a successful internship program requires that the key personnel from both the college and the auto employers work together to develop a program that incorporates their joint objectives and meets legal requirements. Both the college and the auto employers must be willing to invest a substantial amount of time and resources in the preparation phase. Bypassing this critical upfront collaboration can result in a less than successful internship experience for students and possible damage to college/employer relationships.
Preparing the students for an internship is also a critical part of an internship program.
Prior to their first internship, many students report that they have not previously worked in a professional automotive environment and are concerned that they do not know what will be expected of them once they are hired. The colleges’ Work Experience Programs offer classes and assignments that address many of these students’ concerns. Additionally, a large automotive dealership’s Human Resource Department can be prevailed upon to conduct ‘work preparedness’ workshops at the college auto classes to prepare interested students for the work environments and dynamics of a car dealership.
A successful automotive internship program benefits all participants.
Students gain experience, a deeper understanding of what an automotive service technician career entails, and possible career opportunities after graduation. College auto programs and the participating automotive employers forge deeper bonds during the structuring and implementation of the successful internship program. They become partners in their communities. Auto employers develop a pipeline to high quality employees and create deeper ties with their local colleges and communities. Colleges gain industry partners who support the colleges’ automotive programs by training interns, hiring graduates, reviewing curriculum, keeping automotive programs aligned with new and emerging technologies and industry developments, and by providing resources. A successful automotive internship is a “win-win” for all participants and requires regular communications and consistent relationship management between partners.
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