When Mike Zasadny read the news in a local newspaper, the director of stationary operations at LaFontaine car dealership group quickly called Josha Talison, director of schools in Ecorse, MI, a suburb of Detroit.
“I am excited to engage young children in careers as an automotive technician,” Zasadny told WardsAuto. “I told him, ‘We want to help. We are all in it. I think I shocked him a bit, but he’s just as passionate about the program as I am.
It refers to the Certified Automotive Technology Program at Ecorse High School. He got a big boost in July when General Motors gave him tools, components, and two new Chevrolet Silverado pickups for students to work on.
That, in turn, prompted Highland, MI’s LaFontaine Automotive Group (# 51 on the 2021 WardsAuto Megadealer 100) to get involved as well.
It will provide training, tools and mentors to Ecorse students.
“The most important part for us is the mentoring,” Zasadny says. “Our technicians and service managers will come to the school. And we’ll take the students to some of our stores so they can see how the dealerships work. We also talked about internships for seniors.
And, yes, he says, LaFontaine will be looking for potential automotive technicians.
Part of Zasadny’s enthusiasm is that he attended high school in Wyandotte, a town next to Ecorse in the downstream area of Detroit. People downstream remain united, he says.
But his colleagues share the zeal for the LaFontaine-Ecorse alliance.
The opportunity to work with “passionate students looking to enter the automotive industry” is an honor, says Kelley LaFontaine, group vice president.
Dealers nationwide are participating in various programs to address a chronic shortage of qualified auto technicians.
Part of LaFontaine’s efforts is to highlight career opportunities as an automotive technician for young people, says Max Muncey, senior director of corporate communications for the group.
“We want to tell them, ‘Here’s what you can expect to make – up to $ 100,000 for some master techs,’” he told WardsAuto. “We want to show them a career road map. We are trying to deal with the shortage of automotive technology from all sides. There is real enthusiasm within the group for the Ecorse partnership. We want to use it as a template for other programs.
Superintendent Talison said, “We have a moral call to change the dynamics of our community, and it will take partnerships and programs like this to drive that transformation. “
Students who complete the Certified Auto Tech program “will have the skills, connections, and opportunity to immediately enter the workforce, hopefully with LaFontaine Automotive Group,” he says.
“There is a huge shortage of automotive technicians in our industry, and opportunities like this hopefully inspire students to embark on a career in automotive and see the tremendous career growth that comes with it. offers to them, ”said Dan LaFontaine Jr., service manager at his family business. . “We will put our passion and our knowledge at the service of these students. “
Zasadny (photo, left) Thanks new teacher Grant Dobrzelewski for reaching out to GM to include Ecorse in the automaker’s ongoing project to support automotive technician training programs in schools.
Forty students from Ecorse high school will follow the program each year. Half of them are 9 years olde– and 10e-levelers, the other half for juniors and seniors. Graduation will prepare them for the first level of Automotive Service Excellence certification.
“A young person who leaves a program like Ecorse’s can be a master technician in five years,” says Zasadny. But he notes: “The training never stops.
He said of the Ecorse students: “I was in their shoes. I know what they can do.
He realized early on that he wanted to make a living repairing cars. When he was 16, he started working in an auto repair shop. He joined LaFontaine as a service director in 1999.
A husband and wife, Michael Sr. and the late Maureen LaFontaine, founded the dealer group in 1980. His son Ryan LaFontaine now runs an organization that includes 46 franchises, 10 collision centers and 27 dealerships across Michigan.
It employs over 1,800 people and sold 36,277 vehicles last year.
Steve Finlay is a retired editor of WardsAuto. He can be contacted at [email protected].