NHRA stars Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett took next-generation service technicians to school during the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil as part of the Mopar Career Automotive Program’s “Assemble Your Future” initiative.
The “Assemble Your Future” program brings Mopar CAP students to NHRA events to network with dealer representatives, identify potential career opportunities, and meet Mopar and Dodge//SRT NHRA racers as a reward for their participation in the program. The new initiative was made possible with support from Pennzoil, which is headquartered in Houston and is title sponsor of Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil.
Mopar CAP, established in 1984, prepares students to begin their automotive technician careers upon graduation from a certified, two-year training institution, such as a university, college, community college or technical center. Currently, FCA has more than 9,000 active students enrolled in its Mopar CAP program, with students completing more than 100,000 class courses. There are an estimated 750,000 auto technicians working nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across the industry, another 46,000 will need to be hired between 2019 and 2026 to meet increased demand.
Hagan and Pritchett met with a group of more than 25 Mopar CAP students and instructors from Lone Star Community College–North Harris and San Jacinto College and FCA US LLC dealer representatives on Friday, April 12. The participants also heard from Mike Lewis, VP of Don Schumacher Racing, and Neal Strasbaugh, crew chief for Pritchett.
For Hagan, whose family owns the Motor Mile Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Christiansburg, Virginia, and also operates a stand-alone Mopar Express Lane service center in Pulaski, Virginia, the growing need for skilled dealership technicians is one that hits close to home.
“From my father’s experiences running the dealership, I know there is a huge demand for dealership technicians,” said Hagan. “I know it’s something my dad and his team deals with every day. I’ve had the chance to meet and talk with Mopar CAP students in the past, and it’s great to see these young kids who are getting a big jump on their career paths early on, and in an area where there is so much need.”
“We’re excited to launch the Mopar CAP ‘Assemble Your Future’ initiative and host our first group of technician students,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) and Passenger Car Brands, FCA - North America. “This program allows the technicians of tomorrow to connect with more than 10 dealerships from the Houston area for potential career opportunities. It also provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and interact with NHRA superstars.”
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said one of the students, Ceser Gonzales, a 26-year old Nacogdoches, Texas. “I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what it was going to take to have a career… now that I’ve been part of this MoparCAP program. I’m learning a lot more. Today has been incredible. I’ve met some great people and talked with a lot of people from dealerships that are looking for service technicians. I can’t wait to see these cars go down the track.”
“The Mopar CAP program is an outstanding program we use to develop our technicians to support the dealers we have across the country,” said Keith Yancy, Director of FCA Performance Institute. “Here in Houston, we have an amazing partnership with Pennzoil as well as the NHRA and it really is a benefit for everyone involved. The schools we work with here, Lone Star College and San Jacinto, and most importantly it’s a fantastic opportunity for our students in the program to develop long term careers.”
MoparCAP Instructor Josh Kuebler of San Jacinto College added, “It’s a great advantage for both our students and the school to work with Mopar and this CAP program. For the school, we get access to vehicles and we get access to curriculum. For our students, they get placed inside a dealership where they can be at the upper level while interning and still going to school. So the more they learn at the dealership becomes more relatable to what they are learning in the classroom. And once they graduate, they are already going to have a position working in a dealership and they won’t have to spend another two years getting factory trained.
And Tommy Hamilton, Service Manager at the MAC HAIK Dodge Chrysler Jeep Dealership in Houston, agreed, “This is a tremendous program for us because we can take young inspired technicians that are learning the Chrysler product through Chrysler training them the Chrysler training. Bring them into our dealership. Work them half the day while they are in school and work them full days when they are out of school. It gives us an opportunity to teach them how the dealership operations work, how FCA vehicles are worked on, the equipment… What is does is develops our future technicians to where we don’t have to go overpay for technicians. We can groom and develop our own. That’s a huge plus.”
Following the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, the "Assemble Your Future" campaign will visit three additional NHRA national events: Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil: July 19-21, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver; Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil: Sept. 12-15, at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.; and the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil: Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas.
The "Assemble Your Future" presence at the four NHRA races will encompass close to 12 Mopar CAP schools operating in those areas. The goal is to continue expanding the campaign by adding more racing venues in the future.
“We want to start slow and then continue to build,” said Yancy. “Our hope is to expand this campaign so we can reach all of our 99 schools now teaching our CAP curriculum.”