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Connecting with youngsters today enhances aftermarket recruitment opportunities tomorrow

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 09:00
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Filling staffing gaps remains an ongoing challenge throughout the aftermarket as so many valued employees reach retirement age amid a shortage of trained workers entering the industry. Seeking solutions to oft-heard laments along the lines of “today’s young people don’t want to get their hands dirty,” a growing array of forward-thinkers are reaching out to children while they are still in their formative years with the goal of inducing an early and hopefully long-lasting desire to pursue an automotive career.

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In cooperation with California’s Antelope Valley Boys & Girls Club, Aaron Valencia is serving at-risk inner-city youngsters with his Los Angeles-based Lost Angels Children’s Project. Bearing the motto of “building futures by building cars,” the non-profit entity entails ambitious vintage-vehicle restorations and customizations conducted by elementary- to high-school-aged youths.

“We try to be a self-funding organization, but we also need help,” says Valencia, honored in September as a “CNN Hero” in a worldwide broadcast documentary. “We have an influx of students, but not financial support. It’s a constant struggle to hit the pavement and keep this place going: We’re always looking for components, tools, welding materials, sandpaper, wires for electrical work” and other supplies.

Coker Tire, Vintage Air, Matrix System Automotive Finishes, Mar-K Manufacturing, AV Auto Paint, Edelbrock, LMC Truck and Jay Leno are among the current roster of sponsors, and Valencia points out that industry involvement in these types of boys and girls educational programs is crucial for furthering the prospects of the aftermarket to adequately staff their businesses with skilled employees.

“If there isn’t an infusion of interest these companies are going to go out of business,” he warns. “It goes hand-in-hand. It’s keeping it alive.”

“It’s a safe place to learn problem-solving,” Valencia tells Aftermarket Business World. “We haven’t had anyone in our classes who knew what they were doing when they arrived; that’s where we start.”

In addition to teaching attributes such as commitment, coping with life’s stresses, communication, teamwork and punctuality, the students – grouped in after-school classes of 15 apiece – gain a thorough knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems, bodywork and custom painting, artwork and marketing (funds are raised by selling apparel, posters and other branded merchandise), sourcing hard-to-find parts, and how to present an overall sense of professionalism and competence for when they grow into adults, regardless of what occupation they ultimately choose.

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