In the first such partnership in the industry, BMW of North America, LLC has teamed up with The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation to reach out to Hispanics in Greater Los Angeles interested in pursuing a career in automotive technical service. Modeled after BMW’s successful Service Technician Education Program (STEP), MetroSTEP aims to encourage more Hispanics to pursue careers in automotive services and addresses the industry shortage of skilled auto technicians. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 35,000 new technicians will be needed nationwide each year through 2010.
Successfully launched in Atlanta’s African-American community a few years ago, MetroSTEP has moved west to Southern California, where the focus is on the Hispanic community. Working closely with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, BMW of North America has launched a pilot program providing 13 Hispanic students from area technical schools with both classroom and hands-on training. A similar initiative is also taking place in South Florida.
Tom Purves, Chairman and CEO of BMW of North America, LLC, recognizes the importance of such initiatives to the future of the automotive industry. ‘BMW is thrilled to expand the MetroSTEP program to Southern California,’ said Purves, who is also chairman of Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES). ‘We are able to reach a pool of future BMW technicians who will not only help to alleviate the problem of technician shortage, but contribute the skill of being bilingual, a valuable asset to our business, particularly in areas like Southern California.’
The students selected for the Southern California MetroSTEP program represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some have previous automotive service training, and others do not, but according to Ed Huzyak, BMW Regional Aftersales Manager for the Western Region, they all have one thing in common: ‘They all have a strong desire to succeed.’
The BMW MetroSTEP curriculum includes twenty weeks of intensive instruction that alternates between classroom sessions and dealer in-service at two-week intervals. Students learn what would be considered basics like oil changes and tire rotations as well as the more technical aspects of diagnosing a car. They are paid throughout the training program and are guaranteed a full-time job in one of the participating BMW dealerships when they graduate.
‘A program like Southern California MetroSTEP is not only teaching these students how to diagnose and repair cars, but ultimately gives them a choice for a fulfilling career they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to explore,’ said Frank Lopez, President of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation. ‘This model program recognizes the importance and benefits of diversifying the recruiting process in the auto service industry. BMW is smartly investing in a community that is expected to grow exponentially over the next several years and will be a driving force behind the country’s economic growth.’
BMW established STEP nine years ago to address the shortage of automotive service technicians. As a scholarship-based program for graduates of post-secondary technical schools, students are afforded an unsurpassed technical education and career opportunity. Since its inception, more than 2,000 technicians have completed the intensive training program and have been placed in rewarding and satisfying careers. While STEP graduates with some experience earn an average annual salary of $55,000, with further accreditation they can earn more than $100,000 in major markets.