High Impact Careers: MCC Teams Up with Jensen Tire to Target Automotive Trades

Omaha-based Jensen Tire & Auto is finding success in identifying and attracting new employees from a larger pool being trained by an industry-specific program operated by Metropolitan Community College. Jensen Tire & Auto operates 21 service locations in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa and plans to open two additional stores in the next 18 months.

According to Scott Henry, MCC automotive outreach specialist, the recently inked agreement with Jensen Tire & Auto comes at a crucial time for the 49-year-old family-owned firm. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there will be about 69,000 openings annually for automotive service technicians and mechanics. Highly trained workers are needed to replace those transferring occupations or exiting the labor force.

Henry, a native of Hastings who remembers as a teen dismantling much of his ‘77 Chevy Malibu, is confident that entering the second year with his MCC stint will build on what’s already been accomplished. 

He’s met with more than 500 students in high school engine technology classes and at career day opportunities at dozens of middle schools in a four-county service area.

Top-notch Facilities

“Important in the presentation is our new Automotive Training Center on our South Omaha campus which is designed to train highly skilled workers for a variety of roles in the automotive industry,” he said about the $32 million, 100,000-square-foot building completed last year.

Housed in the facility are the auto collision technology and automotive programs, in addition to a Toyota T-Ten program. Overall, Henry said the two-floor, LEED v4 Silver-certified facility is well-outfitted with state-of-the-art industry labs, classrooms and convertible study spaces.

“We utilize imagery for our visitors to think about and do something creative,” Henry said. “Students studying our area on our campus build a camaraderie and students working on cars form a learning community.”

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Meeting Demand

While the new MCC building was designed to replicate what students see in the working industry, both Henry and Nick Jensen, vice president of retail operations for Jensen Tire & Auto, admit a formidable task is overcoming the decades-old belief that a four-year college education is the best.

“I would estimate that in just the last five years wages are up almost 50% and the used car market has increased by about the same margin, more recently because people are holding onto their vehicles longer and need great technicians to fix them,” Henry said. “There are a lot more jobs available so the more we can get people interested in the trades, the greater impact it will have on the local workplace.”

Jensen, a third-generation team member for the business founded in 1973 by William R. Jensen, remembers the ‘96 Mercury Mountaineer he treasured while in high school.

“I loved solving the problems with it as they came up and identifying the cause such as a bad switch,” Jensen said.

Each of Jensen Tire & Auto’s stores aims for “an ideal staffing situation,” which is up to a three-member management team, two or three general service technicians, plus another two or three more experienced technicians who are Automotive Service Excellence certified.

Overall, that includes a team of more than 400.

In addition to its partnership with MCC, Jensen Tire has a close association with the Omaha Public Schools Career Center, Ralston Public Schools, Bellevue Public Schools and Southeast Community College. The benefits of such collaboration include scholarships, tuition reimbursement, a tools purchasing program valued at $5,000 per student, and college sponsorship.

Jensen, a member of the MCC Foundation board of directors, said pay for general techs starts at $15 to $16 an hour. A trade school education can set an employee on a management path that starts with a salary at $50,000, with the possibility of reaching into six figures. A strong benefits package is also offered.

Jensen Tire, which recently added Saturdays to the schedule, makes a point to ensure employees have time off. 

“We’re sending the strong message that our employees will have each weekend off,” Jensen said. “That, in addition to the [continuing education] scholarships we offer, we find increased employee buy-in.”

Tools such as the Snap-on Zeus diagnostics tool and torque wrenches are important to continual education.

Jensen Tire & Auto is paying for MCC’s outreach specialist position.

“MCC has the premier training facility in the region,” he said. “It’s a crown jewel in our recruiting.”

With the projected growth in the demand for automotive service techs, there’s still much to be done via the Jensen-MCC partnership.