Audi Veterans-to-Technicians is working well at Audi dealerships across the United States for several reasons, but here’s one of the most important: the high level of qualifications of the military-veteran candidates dealers can hire through the program.
“The average experience of those who’ve been hired in the program so far is 10-and-a-half years,” said Bernie Hyland, program manager for CALIBRE Systems, the company that administers the recruiting program for Audi of America. “So while they’re mostly being hired into dealerships in an apprentice role, they’re coming in with experience well above the apprentice level.”
The program has been in operation about six months. Most of the 65 or so “vets-to-techs” hired so far have come to Audi dealerships straight off active U.S.-military duty, and others have been members of the National Guard or Reserves. During their time in the service, many have developed skills in all of the core areas of technology required to make them capable automotive technicians, ranging from engine controls to HVAC systems.
“You can’t be a jet-aircraft technician, for instance, without an appreciation for onboard diagnostics and being able to read schematics and understand the close tolerances in engines such as precision clearances on bearings,” Hyland explained. “So the fundamental, core aptitude is there. Audi just has to get them up to speed on our vehicles and unique technologies.”
CALIBRE recruits potential Audi technicians through the U.S. Labor Department Local Veterans Employment Representatives, Veteran Service Organizations and the U.S. military career alumni and transition centers around the world. CALIBRE keeps all of the nation’s military-transition centers up to date on the Audi of America program and connects qualified veterans with Audi dealers.
“We spend a lot of time working with service managers and general managers so they understand what they’re seeing when a young veteran looks in their door and says, ‘Hi,’” Hyland said. “We explain the skills they had to acquire to do certain jobs in the military, such as electronics repair – diagnosing trouble codes, finding the faults, other skills that would be applicable in an Audi shop. We help dealers understand how they can translate the veteran’s military skill set to meet Audi requirements.”
Other brands’ efforts to harness veterans’ skills and experience in automotive dealerships have failed for a number of reasons, Hyland said, including a lack of dedication to helping bridge those skill sets. Audi is committed to making this work.
Also, employers overall are less familiar with what veterans bring to the work setting than in previous generations, because fewer than 2 percent of today’s population have ever served in the military.
And, Hyland explained, many potential employers harbor incorrect stereotypes that “all veterans are broken, wounded warriors. There are nearly 22 million highly skilled veterans in America, and only a very small percentage have been diagnosed” with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder that might affect their employability.
“The preponderance of our veterans are healthy, productive citizens on which the U.S. government has spent a fortune in developing their skills,” Hyland said.
And in being dedicated to the long-term success of the Veterans-to-Technicians program, he said, Audi dealers already are reaping benefits that many didn’t expect. “Dealers who have had these veterans on board as technicians for several months tell us that they’re already grooming some of them as team leaders,” Hyland said. “That’s what you get when you hire qualified veterans.”