Feb.12, 2021—In National Oil And Lube News’ January edition, we introduced you to Larry Witherspoon — founder of the Automotive Training Center, which helps train at-risk youth in Atlanta to become entry-level technicians and get a fresh start.
For seven years, Witherspoon has been running the center and has helped dozens of students enter the industry. Through that time, Witherspoon has developed a unique perspective on what makes the younger generation tick, what they excel at and what some of their faults are.
Witherspoon will be featured in an upcoming NOLN podcast discussing all those things, plus he’ll give advice for those looking to add apprentices or add young talent and breakdown how the center has handled the program during COVID-19.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion:
There is strength in the young workforce.
Among the topics discussed is the general sentiment that young people are no longer passionate for the work, leading to the industry seeing declining numbers in its workforce.
Witherspoon doesn’t believe it's because of a lack of passion or work ethic.
“I hear a lot of negativity around millennials’ work ethic,” he said. “I definitely do not agree. Once they’re engaged, they’re just like anybody else who’s interested in our work and passionate about something.”
Tech comes easy.
Witherspoon has seen that work ethic come through, especially when working with new technology.
“You give a student a scanner, they’re not going to be scared of it. They’re going to be interested and want to learn more about it. I think that really sets them up for success. I see that passion and that work ethic. It’s still there.”
Be open to apprenticeships.
Witherspoon lamented the decline in apprenticeships in the auto industry and in every industry, saying “it didn’t matter if you were an auto mechanic or a lawyer, if you were a master at your craft you had an understudy.”
The goal of the program has always been to help young people avoid incarceration and give them an avenue to start fresh. But with that comes the added benefit of fostering young talent that is needed in quick lubes and repair shops throughout the country.
His message to others looking to take on an apprenticeship or higher young workers: be patient.
“We’ve had students go to shops and not pass their admissions exams. Sometimes they may not have taken it seriously, but the shop moved on from them over some small remedial training after they had put a good amount of time and effort on top of what we did. That young person is still viable. We just need to help them stay on track, give them encouragement and set them up for success.”
Be on the lookout for Witherspoon’s full interview which will be featured on an upcoming NOLN podcast. Click here to listen to all previous podcasts.