Grow Our Own - Auto Tech Style

Author Ashleigh Brilliant said, “Good ideas are common – what’s uncommon are people who’ll work hard enough to bring them about.” 

Such could be said about Dan Janssen, owner of Holdrege-based Janssen Auto Group. 

For three years now, Janssen has worked hard to create a program to teach high school students the skills necessary to become automotive technicians. One of Janssen’s friends told him about a program called “Pistons to Pathways,” which began at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in 2018. Because most high schools do not have the resources to fund auto tech programs, students learn the skills at local auto dealerships. Students are taught by the dealership’s auto technicians. 

That was the idea. Now came the hard work of bringing the program to Holdrege. 

“There were a lot of different pieces,” said Janssen. 

Janssen contacted Holdrege Public Schools and Educational Service Unit 11 to gauge the interest and if the dual-credit program could be successful. Central Community College, which has an automotive technology program at the Hastings Campus, provided guidance on early college programming and credentialed one of Janssen’s technicians to teach the courses, which allows the students to earn college credit. Janssen was able to secure first-year funding for the program from the Phelps County Development Corporation. A generous donation of tools from the Carriage House Foundation was a huge plus. 

“Getting all those organizations together and the funding, that’s what took so long,” Janssen explained. 

Fall 2020 was the program’s first semester and eight students were enrolled, five from Holdrege High School and three from Wilcox-Hildreth High School. Classes were held at Janssen Ford on Monday and Thursday evenings. 

In addition to giving high school students a jumpstart on a potential career in the automotive industry, Janssen also hopes to change the perception of auto technicians. 

“Unfortunately, in the last 10 to 20 years, the perception of an automotive technician is that they’re dirty, they work with their hands,” said Janssen. 

However, he is quick to point out that the highly sophisticated technology involved in today’s car servicing can mean very good earning potential. 

“I have several six-figure technicians working for me and people don’t realize that they can earn six figures as an auto technician,” said Janssen. 

One of the students in the new automotive technology certificate program was Rylee Hursh, a graduate of Wilcox-Hildreth. Before enrolling in the program, Hursh had some experience in working on cars gained from helping his grandfather. He said in the past, he was used to tearing down the engine to fix the problem. Now, Hursh has learned that it’s the other way around. 

“There’s a lot more computer work and background that you have to learn before you can actually start tearing stuff apart,” said Hursh. 

Hursh already has an automotive career path figured out. He plans to attend a two-year college and then work for a company as an auto tech. Hursh’s ultimate goal is to own his own shop. 

Automotive Technology Program