Ford Motor Company is teaming up with local dealers to train and mentor a new generation of automotive technicians through a program called Sponsor Our Students, or SOS for short. As part of the initiative, Ford and Lincoln dealers are encouraged to sponsor students interested in automotive and help them put their academic lessons into practice.
SOS Program Scope
More than 1,000 Ford and Lincoln dealers have enrolled in the SOS program since it launched in April 2022 and have committed to sponsoring over 3,600 students. Ford is hoping to increase the number of dealers to reach a goal of enrolling at least 5,000 students before the start of 2023.
Ford expects many students sponsored through SOS will also participate in the automaker’s Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program. Ford’s ACE program is available at more than 1,100 high schools and post-secondary schools in the United States.
“There are many young people interested in making automotive their chosen profession; they just need the right guidance from the right mentors,” said Carl Anthony, Managing Editor of Automoblog and AutoVision News. “After having these types of discussions among my fellow automotive colleagues, it’s terrific to see the positive response to Ford’s SOS program already.”
Benefits For Dealers
While the program is aimed at helping young people start their automotive careers, dealerships may also see a long-term benefit by participating in SOS. Dealerships can spend tens of thousands investing in a technician and their training over a time span as long as a decade in some cases. SOS is designed to reduce this time commitment and financial burden for dealership service departments.
“Recruiting and retaining quality auto technicians is increasingly becoming one of the biggest challenges facing the retail automotive industry today and why building the dealer technician pipeline is so important,” said Frederiek Toney, Vice President, Ford Customer Service Division. “This program and other Ford technician training programs help to reduce the time and cost associated with recruiting and training new hires.”
“Our goal is to build senior master technicians from the ground up, and we are doing this for the customer,” explained Zach Brandt, General Manager of Capital Ford in Sante Fe, New Mexico. “In the past, we had specialized technicians who waited until another tech finished their work before they could run diagnostics on another issue. Here, master technicians can cover bumper to bumper and clear a ticket to get the customer out the door quicker. This increases our efficiency as a shop.”
Expanded Career Pathways
Students who are eventually hired by their sponsoring dealer can receive accelerated training within Ford’s network and a 20 percent discount in the Rotunda Technician Tool Program, easing the financial barrier of entry to the profession. “Their pay level is based on training requirements, so technicians are motivated to learn more knowing they can make a good living in this line of work,” Brandt added.
Every dealership in the SOS program receives an exclusive “playbook” that covers ways to attract and train students as technicians. Dealers will also have the support of their OEM field teams throughout their enrollment. Currently, the SOS program is only offered in the U.S., but Ford hopes to expand it elsewhere soon.