Along with announcing the winners of the 6th annual Women Driving Auto Retail Contest, the National Automobile Dealers Association revealed the upcoming start of a program aimed at addressing one of the most pressing needs at dealerships.

On Friday at NADA Show 2023 in Dallas, officials from NADA, National Urban League and Urban League of Louisiana announced the February launch of a pilot service technician apprenticeship program in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

NADA is partnering with the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association (LADA) and the Urban League of Louisiana's Office of Workforce Development to place aspiring technicians into apprenticeship roles in local Louisiana dealerships.

The NADA Foundation is providing resources for the initiative, according to a news release.

“This pilot program is the first step in what we hope will one day be a national program to recruit, train and place trained technicians in dealerships across the country,” said NADA Foundation chairwoman Annette Sykora, owner of Smith Auto Family in Levelland, Texas.

“Working with our Urban League partners, we will identify aspiring technicians, train them at a participating dealership and community college, and place them into critical work at Louisiana Dealerships,” Sykora continued in the news release. “Our vision is to create a program that can scale anywhere.”

Up to 20 candidates will be selected by the Urban League of Louisiana and will start with its four-week professional and life skills training program in February. They will then be placed with participating dealerships where they will shadow dealership employees while they are taking technician classes in automotive technology programs at either Baton Rouge Community College or Delgado Community College.

“We are excited that this important workforce development program is taking root in Louisiana through the Urban League of Louisiana, National Urban League, and National Automobile Dealers Association,” said Urban League of Louisiana president and CEO Judy Reese Morse. “This is yet another opportunity for our local technicians to develop and this program creates equitable pathways for a stronger and more innovative automotive industry in our state.”

Upon completion of the training and shadowing, they will begin working at those dealerships as technician apprentices. The apprenticeship program will run for approximately 18 months and include both ASE and OEM certifications.

“As a proud son of Louisiana, I’m especially pleased to be launching this innovative and exciting new partnership here,” National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial said. “A diverse workforce that has equitable access to training and opportunity is a key element to a dynamic and resilient economy, and creative organizations like the National Automobile Dealers Association are helping to lead the way.”

First tie in annual Women Driving Auto Retail Video Contest

First time for everything, right?

NADA and sponsor Tekion named Leslie Jefferson and Alicia Rivera as the winners of the 6th annual Women Driving Auto Retail Contest at NADA Show 2023. Jefferson, an acquisition executive for Pohanka of Salisbury in Salisbury, Md., and Rivera, assistant service director for Trophy Nissan in Dallas were named the winners at the NADA Show Live Stage.

Launched in August 2019, the video contest is part of NADA’s Women Driving Auto Retail initiative, which highlights the current voices of women working in dealerships and encourages other women to pursue automotive careers.

The video contest celebrates women who work in all areas of dealerships and aims to encourage more women to pursue a career in auto retail.

This is the contest’s first tie, according to a news release from NADA.

“Equality should not be in just words, but shown in day-to-day actions” Tekion founder and CEO Jay Vijayan said in the news release. “We are proud to sponsor and support NADA’s Women Driving Auto Retail initiative to empower women in retail automotive. Equality matters and we look forward to seeing an increase in female employment, bringing positive change throughout the entire industry."

Jefferson has been with Pohanka of Salisbury since 2013. “Being a woman has always been an honorable thing at Pohanka. We take pride in ourselves, our goals, our machines, and our technology, and we don’t let anyone stand in our way,” she said in her video.

In 2020, Jefferson was in a motor vehicle accident resulting in a complete spinal chord injury. Only 2% of people with her injury return to work within the first year, according to the NADA release, but she was back to work full-time from home within the first 90 days and onsite in seven months.

“No matter if you’re a woman or a man, walking or rolling, there’s room for you in this industry,” Jefferson said.

Rivera started her career at Trophy Nissan 14 years ago at age 20 as a way to make more money to help her mom. She soon realized the industry offered her a long-term career, as she was promoted to run the business development center, then the rental car department.

“Working here has made me able to still be a part of my kids’ lives and not have to chose if I want to be a professional or if I want to be a mother,” Rivera said in her video. “I can have both.”

Rivera plans to continue her career in the auto industry, next as a service director, then a general manager with her own store.

“It’s never been easy for a female to be accepted into this world. I think now we’re proving more and more every day what we’re capable of. We bring something different to the table. We bring different ideas. We see things in a different perspective,” Rivera said. “My advice for women that are hesitant about choosing this career path would be go for it. The sky is the limit.”

Carmen Hinton, service manager at Carter Myers Automotive Value Subaru, was the winner of last year’s video contest. She and Vijayan announced the contest winner during a segment on NADA’s Live Stage at the organization’s annual event on Saturday.

NADA said the videos chosen as finalists were highlighted for their inspiration, production quality, and impact.

“Auto retail is full of opportunities for women – from the service lanes to the showroom,” said Michael Alford, 2022 NADA chairman and dealer principal at Marine Chevrolet in Jacksonville, N.C. “Positions in dealerships very often do not require industry experience, and they offer great benefits, career development, and work-life balance. I’m energized by the increase of women in auto and the work this initiative has done to drive it.”

All semifinalists will receive a $500 gift card and the grand-prize winners receive a $1,000 gift card and complimentary registration to NADA Show 2024 in Las Vegas.

View the submissions from the 10 semifinalists via this website and find more information on NADA’s Women Driving Auto Retail initiative can be found online here.