TechForce Summit Focuses on FutureTech Success Campaign

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TechForce Summit Focuses on FutureTech Success Campaign

Thirty industry leaders recently gathered in Phoenix, Ariz., for the inaugural annual summit of the FutureTech Success National Leadership Cabinet.

Participants ranged from the heads of national associations, such as ASE and SkillsUSA, to corporate CMOs and HR/technical recruiting executives, as well as upper-level executives from Nissan North America, Interstate Batteries, Universal Technical Institute and Manheim/Cox Automotive.

The summit’s purpose was to continue to build momentum for TechForce Foundation’s FutureTech Success campaign.

“Our campaign is laser focused on increasing the number of qualified technicians in North America, but we need the buy-in of the entire industry to be successful,” Jennifer Maher, CEO/executive director of TechForce, said. “And that is exactly what we have received and continue to receive from some of the industry’s strongest advocates and highest profile leaders.

“No one entity can fix the qualified technician shortage problem. We all must row in the same direction. We’re so grateful to have the support, engagement and enthusiasm of leaders throughout the industry.”

To that end, Maher said, the cabinet spent 1-1/2 days exploring ways to implement and activate the campaign within their own companies and associations, and brainstorming collaborative ideas around which the whole industry can unite.

“We must beat one, collective drum,” said Maher, “that we are one of America’s largest industries and we need a strong, trained, viable workforce. For decades, students have been told there’s only one road to success, and that’s through a four-year degree. They’ve been led to believe that working with your hands and using one’s natural tactile intelligence is a ‘less-than-desirable pathway.’ But it’s simply not true, and America needs its skilled technicians to keep it rolling. Today’s vehicle technician jobs are in high demand and provide a solid middle-class career path. It’s time we stand up and rally together for our own talent pool.”

Demonstrating the collective power of this initiative, competitors —Shell Lubricants and Valvoline, Advance Auto Parts and AutoZone, Nissan and General Motors — left their business cards at the door, pledging instead to unite behind the FutureTech Success initiative, aimed at helping to motivate, train and develop technicians.

“It’s important for each company to have our peers involved with this initiative because every one of us rely and depend on qualified technicians,” explained Chris Blanchette, director, operations (technical and innovation), Bridgestone Retail Operations and member of the TechForce board of directors. “We’ll either all rise together or fall together in this quest to invest in the best and brightest of our technician workforce.” 

During the summit, TechForce unveiled its revamped website, designed, built and managed by Autoshop Solutions. The new site includes the FutureTech Resource Hub, a one-stop-shop portal through which parents and future technicians can find after-school programs, clubs, events, technical schools, scholarships and trainings that help develop their skills and pathway to the technician profession. Additionally, the site includes the new Industry Hub (I-Hub) through which industry recruiters, managers, working technicians and educators can find helpful resources to support and connect with future technicians.

“Anyone — from interested students to companies wanting to recruit the best technicians — can find what they need on the website,” Maher said. “Students and their parents can explore what the technician career is all about through our collection of videos, while companies can access and share the best practices to attract, develop, train, hire, recruit and retain technicians.”

To kick off the summit, a joint luncheon was held for the members of the National Leadership Cabinet and members of the Arizona FutureTech Workforce Development Council. Having national leaders joined by their local counterparts raises the bar for technical education in Arizona. Together, the organizations ensure that middle- and high-school students create opportunities to connect STEM subjects to automotive and diesel technology; provide national resources, training aids and donations to programs and students in need; and ensure that industry is part of the solution in developing tomorrow’s workforce of vehicle technicians.

Driving home the point was a “Connecting the Dots” theme emphasized by two of the Summit’s kickoff luncheon speakers who are both recipients of TechForce and FutureTech Success campaign efforts. Tony Camp, principal of Trevor Browne High School in Phoenix, said his school has benefitted from an auto shop makeover with the help of TechForce. Crist Morillon, an entry-level Telsa technician, shared her personal journey to becoming a technician, pinpointing the continuous support available to her, beginning with SkillsUSA, Phoenix’s Metrotech High School, Universal Technical Institute, and now Tesla.

Both Camp and Morillon said TechForce is a bridge for the resources available throughout the industry in a way future technicians, parents, schools and employers can all find each other. 

The Leadership Cabinet consists of a spectrum of industry entities, including manufacturers, associations and celebrity spokespersons. In attendance were: Christen Battaglia, director of strategic partnerships, Collision Repair Education Foundation; Chris Blanchette, director, operations (technical and innovation), Bridgestone Retail Operations; Erin Brennan, product team manager, Cengage Learning; Nancy Bruner, manager/influencer strategy North America, Shell Lubricants featuring Pennzoil and Rotella; John Brown, regional manager – aftersales, Infiniti West Region, Nissan North America; Scott Brown, board member, NASTF; Chris Chesney, senior director customer training, Advance Auto Parts; Larry Cox, vice president of sales and marketing, Sunstate Equipment Co.; Warren DeBardelaben, director dealer support, Nissan North America; Barry Fodor, manager Techmate Tools and Equipment, Nissan North America; Tom Gray, vice president marketing, Interstate Batteries; Vicki Hardenbergh, director program management, Manheim/Cox Automotive; Timothy Hatcher, director technical operations, AMRA; Kyle Holt, president, S/P2; Blye Hunsinger, director, talent acquisition, Bridgestone Retail Operations; Piper Jameson, chief marketing officer, Universal Technical Institute; Steve Johnson, NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle racer & U.S. nationals champion, Steve Johnson Racing; Greg Kershaw, manager of digital marketing-social media, WD-40; Julia Landauer, two-time championship NASCAR driver, Julia Landauer Racing;  Bogi Lateiner, CEO/master mechanic, Bogi’s Garage; Tim Lawrence, CEO, SkillsUSA; Travis Leybeck, director, strategic alliances, TechForce; Mitch Major, vice president, commercial support, AutoZone; Katie McGuire, senior product manager, Cengage Learning; Dave Milne, executive director, president, ASE Training Managers Council (ATMC); Margaret Palango, chief business development officer, Autoshop Solutions; Greg Rintala, national sales manager, Snap-on; Greg Settle, director, national initiatives, TechForce; Donny Seyfer, executive officer, NASTF; and Tim Zilke, president and CEO, ASE.

Cabinet members unable to attend were: George Arrants, automotive education consultant, George Arrants Enterprises; Angie Babin, vice president of retail advantage, Manheim/Cox Automotive; Robert Braswell, executive director, Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC); Jeff Cox, vice president, AMRA; Brandon Eckenrode, director of development, Collision Repair Education Foundation; Bill Hanvey, president & CEO, Auto Care Association; Tim Lesmeister, vice president, marketing, WD-40; Katy McQuiston, manager, job & career development, Auto Care Association/staff liaison, Women in Auto Care; Tony Molla, vice president, ASA; Jamal Muashsher, vice president marketing & customer experience, Valvoline; Clark Plucinski, executive director, Collision Repair Education Foundation; and Trish Serratore, president, ASE Education Foundation.

Other Summit attendees were community leaders throughout Arizona who are champions for technical education, STEM after-school and in-school curriculum, workforce development, post-secondary technical education, educators and industry employers.

Attending members of the Arizona FutureTech Workforce Development Council were: Brian Abraham, regional commercial sales manager, AutoZone; Drew Alcazar, president & CEO, Russo and Steele; Tony Camp, principal, Phoenix Union High School District, Trevor Browne High School; Robin Cronbaugh, state director at Arizona Department of Education, SkillsUSA Arizona; Dr. Sally Downey, Ed.D., superintendent East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT); Melissa Reyes Jackson, director of career and technical education, Magnet and Innovation Programs at Phoenix Union High School District, Phoenix Union High School District; Kristen Marquez, career & community outreach specialist at Mesa Public Schools; Kim McWaters, president & CEO, Universal Technical Institute; Patrick McWhortor, president, Lead for Change; Dan Meyer, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes; Crist Morillon, Tesla; Rich Nickel, president & CEO, College Success Arizona; Mike Romano, campus president, Universal Technical Institute; Cynthia Swell Tweh, deputy economic development director, City of Phoenix, AZ@Work; Margie van Lierop, Bogi’s Garage; Randy Walton, senior HR business partner Southwest, Bridgestone Retail Operations; and Chris Watts, CEO, Sunstate Equipment Co.

About TechForce Foundation

TechForce Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) with the mission to champion students to and through their education and into careers as professional technicians. The Foundation distributes more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants annually, thanks to its generous corporate sponsors and donors, and is spearheading FutureTech Success, the industry-wide initiative to help encourage and support more young people to pursue the vehicle technician profession. For more information, visit

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