Two long-time friends and 2022 East Jordan High School graduates recently began employment at Fletch’s GMC Buick Audi in Petoskey, working in the certified service center as technicians. Thomas Simpson and Keegan Speer both credit the skills they learned during career and technical education courses in high school in providing them the hands-on experience needed to go directly into the workforce after graduating this spring.

“By the time I was in the second year of autos, I decided this is what I wanted to do to make a living,” said Speer.

“When I was younger I started by tearing apart bicycles and putting them back together, and then the toys kept getting bigger,” said Simpson, who now owns numerous vehicles that he is able to repair. “They tend to break down, and it’s great to be able to fix them myself. It’s a great skill to have.”

Their choice to enter the workforce after graduation was recently celebrated by Char-Em ISD Career and Technical Education staff as part of the “Career Tech to Careers” initiative, which recognizes the decision of high school graduates to enter careers after earning diplomas, specifically those students whose high school careers included CTE classes.

That was indeed the case for both Simpson and Speer. During high school, Simpson took Automotive Technology 1-3, Welding Technology and Woodworking 1 and 2. Speer took autos 1 and 2, welding, woods, and four years of CAD (computer aided design).

Both young men are full-time tire and lube technicians throughout this summer, assisting with oil changes, tire rotations and basic maintenance tasks for visitors to the certified service center at Fletch’s. In the fall, they will continue employment at Fletch’s and take courses at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City to gain further automotive knowledge. Both currently have various certifications already from their high school automotive program.

They typically work Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., are paid hourly, and have the opportunity to work extra hours.

Service manager John Hubbard noted that the two had ample skills out of high school to fill the full time positions. “A lot of these guys have worked on cars since they were young, which was the case with Thomas and Keegan. When hiring, we look for someone who is enthusiastic about the car business and working on cars, and someone with a great attitude,” said Hubbard.

Abigail Skop, human resources manager for Fletch’s, said the two young men exhibited a passion for working on vehicles – one of the most important traits at this long-time, family owned Petoskey business. “You can tell when kids have that passion. It is something that I look for in hiring,” said Skop. “They also need to have good listening skills. A lot of our staff have worked here for a long time and they want to teach these younger kids the skills they need.”

Hubbard said he looks forward to Simpson and Speer gaining even more knowledge during their training at NMC, which can help them land further certifications and grow in their positions at Fletch’s. “It’s a great trade to get into. You can make a lot of money and avoid a lot of debt,” he added.

Skop said Fletch’s looks for opportunities to provide young people with good paying, steady jobs. “We like investing in these young adults,” she said. “They’re our future, too.”

Special thanks to the Mansfield Family Foundation for continuing to support these signing events with gift cards for the new employees to purchase necessary tools and equipment for their job.

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