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home : community : community Friday, November 24, 2017

10/31/2017 5:11:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
East Metro Toyota Dealerships Reach Out To Community With Paid Training Opportunity

By Eric Bestrom

Paul Yang and Robert Thao working on brakes.
Paul Yang watches as Robert Thao mounts a tire.
For many years, Maplewood Toyota and Inver Grove Toyota have greatly valued Hmong and other diverse communities as managers, employees, customers, and neighbors. These East Metro dealerships are now pioneering a new paid training program to reach out and give back to the communities, which are so important to them. At the same time, the program provides a source of entry-level maintenance technicians whose training has been customized to the dealerships' needs and standards.

The training takes place in Inver Grove Heights about 6 hours in the morning and early afternoon of each weekday, paid at $10 per hour. Paul "Guru" Yang, the trainer, not only is very experienced in auto repair, but is fluent in Hmong and Thai as well as English. The program takes about 6 weeks to complete, depending on how fast the trainee is learning. Applicants for the training must pass a drug test and have a valid driver's license in good standing.

"This is an area of the community's needs where we can help," says Inver Grove Toyota Service Director John Kellogg, who wrote the syllabus and created the program with Paul Yang this summer. "We want to show people a career path."

The training focuses not only on shadowing current dealership employees and observing the technical skills needed, but also on the customer service and "soft skills" needed to be successful on the job long-term. For example, in addition to learning about the technical aspects of lube, oil, filter, brake and tire inspection and maintenance, trainees also learn to show respect for the customer's vehicle by being mindful of details such as the customer's seat settings.

"You're an oil change tech driving the customer's car into the shop," says John Kellogg. "The customer's radio is on and tuned to a particular station. The seat is adjusted to their perfect setting. You have to learn to think about these things for when you return the car to the customer."

The first graduate of the program, Tristan Vue, was hired on at Maplewood Toyota. The plan is for the next trainees to pipeline into Maplewood Toyota and Inver Grove Toyota entry-level jobs. The paid training is not only reaching out to Hmong young men, but is open to people of any age, gender, and ethnic group. Trainees enrolled after Tristan Vue have included people whose families have been in America for more than a hundred years, as well as several S'gaw Karen refugees born in Burma (Myanmar).

Paw "Powder" Htoo, a Refugee Employment Services specialist at Hmong American Partnership non-profit organization, was pleased to refer four Karen community members to the training program.

"It was very sensitive of Inver Grove Toyota and Maplewood Toyota to make this paid training," says Paw Htoo. "Courses you have to pay for, or even free training, can be a hardship to people who still have bills to pay and a family to feed during the weeks of a training course."

People interested in the course should contact John Kellogg at 651-306-4624 or email John at jkellogg@invergrovetoyota.com.




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