‘New Breed’ of Technicians

Hudson Toyota’s accelerated training program motivates, revitalizes workforce
by Kelsey Soule
July/August 2017
Four years ago, when Dean Ciccarelli took over as Hudson Toyota’s general manager, he quickly realized that turnover among his service technicians was a problem. When he dug deeper, he learned the technicians didn’t see a clear path for advancement and were leaving in search of better opportunities.


Clear Path
Hudson Toyota General Manager Dean Ciccarelli (front) saw workforce pride return after the Jersey City dealership developed an accelerated training program for service technicians. Photos by Paul Howell

“It takes highly skilled professionals to perform the services we provide in our dealership,” says Ciccarelli about the Penske Automotive Group dealership in Jersey City, New Jersey. “We found that we were losing the skilled hands needed to support recalls and other highly technical issues in order to provide a world-class service experience to our customers.”
He began investigating ways to support his technicians’ training needs and create a positive culture and work environment for long-term sustainability.
And in April 2016, he and his team launched a new service technician training program that is paying off in spades.
Mission: Possible
Ciccarelli, Penske and Ron Demirjian, Hudson Toyota’s quality specialist shop foreman, worked with local trade schools to develop a curriculum for an accelerated training program that would allow technicians to continually improve and advance in their career. The program trains and prepares them for the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification tests, and provides hands-on training in Hudson Toyota’s service department.
The program aims to regain a technician’s sense of pride that had been lost, and make the process of achieving certifications part of their daily work. There are more than 40 ASE certification tests that cover all aspects of the automotive service and repair industry.
To achieve the highest level — the ASE Master Diagnostic Technician — employees must pass eight individual tests and recertify every five years.
The training is tailored to individual technicians to help them comprehend the multilayered questions on their tests. Technicians spend one day a week in class at the dealership, and are dispatched to service vehicles throughout the week where they apply what they’ve learned in class.
The technicians are paid for their time during the training process, and material costs are covered. To ensure technicians stay the path, Hudson Toyota maps their training status to help them customize questions and classroom time.
As Hudson’s 42 technicians achieved certifications, Ciccarelli saw the workforce pride return.
“We found a ‘new breed’ of technicians came out of this program,” he says. “Our tenured employees were engaging in the opportunity alongside new employees rising to meet the challenge. It instilled a sense of competitiveness and motivation that we hadn’t seen before.”
Good Investment


Direct Contact
Technicians spend one day a week in class at Hudson Toyota, and are dispatched to service vehicles throughout the week to apply what they’ve learned in class.

Technician Elvys Rosa joined Hudson Toyota two years ago. While he enjoyed his job, he felt like the ASE certifications that would advance his career were out of reach. The reason: Other technicians told him horror stories about how hard the tests were, how expensive it was and that the success rate for a first attempt was low.
Because of the new training program, Rosa now has four of the eight ASE certifications he needs to become a master diagnostic technician.
“This program has enabled me to have more opportunities within the company,” Rosa says. “I can perform a variety of advanced jobs, which makes me more marketable as a technician, and motivates me to continue my training. And with every certification I achieve, I work more, earn more and learn more about the trade I love.”
The investment is paying off both in employee and customer satisfaction. Customers want to know more about the process technicians are using — and they want it to be explained in a way that makes sense to them.
Seeing that their service technician is ASE certified provides customers tangible proof of the technician’s expertise and technical knowledge. And because technician recertification is required, they are up to speed on the latest automotive technologies.
Since the program launched, 20 percent of Ciccarelli’s technician workforce has achieved the master diagnostic technician status. His overall fixed-operation business has grown 40 percent.
“Investing in our technicians is one of the best strategies we have found,” he says. “We pride ourselves in having the best technicians taking care of our guests. If you educate your workforce, support them professionally and give them a world-class work environment, they will take care of your customers. And that’s what it’s all about.”
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