Mercedes-Benz USA recently became the first luxury automotive manufacturer to receive U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Veterans Affairs approval for a technician apprenticeship program.
The 16-week DRIVE program trains technicians for careers at Mercedes-Benz dealerships. The automaker offers the program in Jacksonville, as well as California, Texas and Massachusetts.
Christian Treiber, vice president of customer service at MBUSA, said the program helps meet the company’s rising demand for trained talent.
“(Being a technician) today is a totally different job,” said Treiber, noting the millions of lines of code that go into modern vehicles. “Mechanics are now technologists with a high level of sophistication.”
The DRIVE program trains students on a variety of skills including brakes and traction, service, maintenance, telematics, diagnostic strategy and electrical fundamentals. Students also get training in career development, teamwork and discipline, Treiber said.
The program began in 2015 and came to Jacksonville in 2016, but it only became part of the National Apprenticeship System in August. It is now the first dealership-focused training program certified in the U.S. Approximately 200 technicians went through the program last year.
Mercedes-Benz USA will be accepting eight to 16 applicants for its next DRIVE program in Jacksonville, which begins Sept. 25. Many applicants are sponsored by dealerships, and now that the program is certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans can apply the GI Bill.
“It’s a great fit for veterans for creating a career after service,” Treiber said.
Participants submit the region or even dealership they’d like to work, and the company works to get participants interviews during the program so they can have jobs secured by the time they graduate. Technicians’ pay range widely across the country because of different costs of living, but average pay ranges between $35,000 and $45,000, Treiber said. Experienced technicians who participate in DRIVE to get trained on Mercedes-Benz systems typically earn more, and some MBUSA technicians earn as much as $100,000.
Treiber said the most important impact he hopes the DRIVE program has is changing the perception of technicians’ as greasy jobs.
“The image of the technician is something the automobile industry needs to work on,” he said.