Cape Auto Body, located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was established in 1952.
More than a decade ago, Cape Auto Collision Center in Plymouth, MA, began hiring co-op students from local technical high schools to help in the body shop.
Kevin Gallerani, owner of Cape Auto, said it has become an important part of the family-run business. We talked to Gallerani about the benefits he has found hiring students over the years as part of the co-op program.
Q: How did your family get started in the collision repair business?
A: Cape Auto (the name) was established in 1952, but my family’s body shop goes back much further. My great grandfather was fixing crashed vehicles in the ‘30s under the name Alphonso’s Auto Body at the same location that my service department is currently in. We have a service department at 53 Samoset Street with 20 employees. The collision center, with 17 employees, is located at 115 Sandwich Street.
Q: Can you tell us about the co-op program and the benefits of having students working at your business?
A: We have been involved with co-ops for at least 10 years. We have a co-op program at our collision center and our service center every year. We use students from Plymouth South Technical School and Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. The benefit of having students in the co-op program is that we get a chance to try them out and test their mechanical skills and their work ethics. We can then train and mold the technicians to fix vehicles the way that we want and need them fixed. They learn what is expected at an early age.
Q: How long do they usually work at your business, and are any of them hired full time?
A: Usually, we have at least two students at each shop every year and sometimes they don’t make it or they do not stay in the trade. I would say less than 20 percent actually make it. We are always looking for new employees as we grow, and that’s why we keep looking to the schools for students.
(L to R) Kathy Chaves, customer care representative at Cape Auto Body, with Mark MacKinnon, service advisor
Q: What advice can you give to other shop owners who are considering using students?
A: I would recommend that all shops look to trade schools for students. It is a lot more work than just hiring a technician off the street, but the value is much stronger. You train the technicians to learn your philosophy and expectations. Technicians get older every year, and you need to look to the schools for the technicians of the future.
Q: How will co-op programs like the ones you participate in help the industry?
A: It is very hard to find good qualified employees in this trade. Most kids are pushed to go to college by parents and guidance counselors, but we still need technicians in many service trades. Who will fix our cars in the future? The average age of a collision technician is 40 right now and it is rising because it is hard to find younger technicians in the trade. There are great jobs available, and vocational schools need to convince their new students of this.
For more information, visit www.capeautorepairs.com or call (508) 747-0316.