Turning Your Passion Into a Career

5 months ago Showcase

There are infinite directions and paths to follow in life. This is even more true if YOU are willing to put the gears in motion to head down one of these paths. Of course, if you are sitting on the side of the road hoping someone comes by, picks you up, drives you to the nearest airport and drops you off with a suitcase packed with a cool million, your paths might be a bit more limited.

I’d like you to meet Jacob Fleming, a young man from San Antonio, Texas. Not long ago, Jacob, like many teens graduating high school, was uncertain of what should come next. Should it be college? Should it be straight to full-time work? Should it be to travel the world and couch surf for a few years? Should it be a trade school? Maybe he would luck out and find a gal who was already a self-made millionaire and he could do anything and everything he wanted to. At that time, the only significant interest Jacob gave much consideration to was his passion for playing rock ‘n roll (technically, heavy metal). He started down a path that many young musicians find themselves on. It goes something like this: Live as cheap as possible; find a job that pays just enough to scrape by, yet flexible enough to get off work when you need so you can go play shows; live at home if you can, or shack up with some friends or bandmates; and float from day to day just waiting for the “big break” that usually never comes.

Jacob recounts the moment he really fell in love with cars, and more specifically, the modern-day Dodge muscle car movement. Sometime around 2011, he and his family were out at local Dodge dealerships looking for a new truck. He was roughly 12 years old at the time, so a day like that was likely a dreadful day just riding around with your folks being forced to behave and sit quietly against your will. There was a Dodge Challenger SRT8 in the showroom where Jacob was sitting and doing his best to be the model kid. A salesman came in to move the car back outside from within the showroom. The moment that engine fired up is a moment that will stick with him the rest of his life. Prior to this moment, Jacob never really looked twice or thought twice about a car being something more than a contraption that takes him places.

After graduating high school with his efforts focused on pursuing music, Jacob worked at one of those jobs that was just enough to scrape by with the bare minimums, managing a gas station. As he began to realize and live the freedom of being an “adult”, he gradually started to envision more out of life. Jacob picked up a second job for the sole purpose of being able to pick up his dream car, the one he hadn’t stopped thinking about since the day his parents dragged him around town while they shopped for a new truck. With income flowing in from two jobs, he was able to pick up a slightly used 2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack. His life was complete!

Let us fast forward two or three years from his dream purchase. Travel through wild elections, pandemics, killer germs, riots and, in general, a world in chaos. The world was upside down and in a much different place than it was at the end of 2019. Jacob decided it was time for a change. Time to put aside the unrealistic dreams of becoming a rock star. Time to grow up and find a meaningful direction in life. That switch in life, to go from being content with no major drive or responsibility to being on a mission for making something of your life half the battle. Many people never seem to even get that far. The other half of the battle is who, what, when, where and how do you accomplish this? This can be a big hurdle for even the most determined people.

Navigating your way into higher education can be challenging. I say that loosely, and that may be the biggest understatement of the year. From applications to logistics, to finances, to loans and timelines, it never was set up for young adults to sort through. The idea clicked for Jacob. He had a newly discovered love for hot rods. As a newly born die-hard Dodge enthusiast, he had zero skills or knowledge on anything automotive related, and he wanted a new direction in life that could lead to a solid and steady income. The direction came into focus as Jacob spent time browsing the web for ways in which he could get an education in the automotive field. He had heard of this little program called Mopar® CAP through social media marketing. It appeared to be the perfect formula for the next big step into the jungle of adulthood. Jacob could get the official training and certifications needed to become an automotive technician for his favorite automaker and almost be guaranteed a job when he graduates.

Let us take a step away from Jacob’s story for a second and talk about Mopar CAP (Career Automotive Program). It would be cool if Dodge had an official Dodge technical college in every major city. Dean of the school, Dean Kuniskis, makes his rounds from class to class, parking lots filled with Mopar vehicles old and new. Let’s face it, that is nowhere near possible. Mopar CAP is Mopar’s official training and certification specific to Mopar brands. The program aims to provide training to technicians entering this career path, or even give folks that have been wrenching for years the opportunity to be brought up to speed on fixing and maintaining the coolest cars on earth. While there may not be Mopar schools in every city, there are in fact auto/diesel schools in most cities across the country. Mopar partnered with many of these technical colleges to make this program available in as many towns as possible. The program can take a total noob who doesn’t understand the 10mm socket memes all the way to a Level 2 certified Mopar technician. With availability all over the country and the program taking as little as 12 months, it’s a fast-track career path that hit our friend Jacob right in his accelerator pedal foot.

Back to Jacob, our favorite new gearhead! Jacob admits he knew almost nothing about working on cars or the technical career options and where it could lead him. He was able to quickly locate a Mopar CAP offering just three hours from his house, Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas. The program isn’t for the faint of heart or those who want to part-time it or take a “light” semester. Jacob placed a call to TSTC to get the run-down of applying to the program. The whole process is simple and lined up in a way that I believe makes a lot of sense. Mopar CAP is perfect for both the experienced tech or mechanic or the total beginner. Jacob states that maybe 50% of the students in his class are experienced techs furthering their training and certifications or becoming “official”, while the other half is made up of people who couldn’t point out a dipstick, have performed oil changes at home, and everything in between. It’s a full-time gig that’s made to take anyone and everyone from novice to pro in short time. Many students begin working or interning at a Dodge dealership prior to entering the first semester. This helps them get their feet wet and get a feel for the day-to-day life of working as a Dodge tech. But once the semester starts, you better clock out, because your days are going to be filled.

To get accepted into the program, you must apply and get approved, secure your payment options for tuition, and find a Dodge dealer that will agree you let you work/intern/apprentice at their dealership for the length of the program. Most dealers welcome the prospects since good, skilled, trained help is harder and harder to find these days. Once you have those three major things lined up, you are good to go! The program is simple. It’s a series of five semesters. Each semester consists of seven weeks of class followed by eight weeks of 40 hours a week at your sponsor dealership. Like many others, Jacob locked in a dealer months before his semester started to get a hands-on crash course of what used motor oil smells like, general gearhead hazing and being low man on the totem pole. He worked for several months at the dealership prior to his first semester. While it may not be the most educational portion of this journey, it’s a critical one. Making it through grunt-ville and coming out with a good attitude and ready to work will definitely earn the respect of the village elders. Once the semester fires up, it’s full-on learning time. Class is Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. While each semester covers a different area of focus and includes different amounts of hands-on shop time at the school, the training is arranged in a way that you can literally start school with no prior experience and not be lost in the weeds. The first semester consists of Electrical 1 and Electrical 2 and covers everything from the basics of electricity to navigating and operating the Dodge Brand’s various computer-based service systems, such as DealerCONNECT. When the seven weeks are complete, get your uniform ready because it’s time to head off to the dealership to put in some hours. Rinse and repeat. Each semester builds on the semester prior. Assuming you apply yourself, study and work hard, it’s a near certain bet that you will come out after five of those rotations as a certified Level 2 Mopar Technician ready to get hired in (and paid accordingly) at almost any Dodge dealer in the country. A certified Level 2 tech can earn $30/hr or more depending on experience and hiring dealership.

Jacob is currently in the first seven weeks of work rotation in his first semester. He mentions that navigating and applying to the program was super-simple and made the process much less stress-inducing than applying to a four-year college. It was a no-brainer for him. Making the commitment (both financially and mentally) to go to school is a big decision. Jacob admits that while it was an important decision, it was an easy one to make. Compared to traditional college, the process of getting in and through the program was much easier and much cheaper. Nothing sucks worse than graduating college with $100k in student loans to pay back, trust me, I know. In talking with Jacob, I was able to get the real sense of how excited he was to be headed down this path. I could hear the excitement in his voice, and he filled me in on the details of all the things he has learned so far. Now that he is in the work rotation of the semester, he is working at the dealership performing the more “basic” services offered such as Express Lane oil changes and PDI (pre-delivery inspections) on new vehicles being delivered. While these jobs aren’t as glamourous as swapping a supercharger on a new Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Redeye or changing spark plugs out on a Viper, Jacob is still excited to be getting in and getting his hands dirty. Knowing plenty of techs/mechanics myself, I have a pretty good feel for how techs are. And we all know a handful of techs referred to as “that guy” who makes sure EVERYONE knows that they aren’t as smart as him. I had some fears “that guy” might run a newcomer like Jacob off and give them a bad vibe for what’s to come after graduation. “Everyone at my dealership has been very welcoming and understanding. They generally are as helpful as they can be. Sure, on occasion, they will bust my chops if I do something stupid, but overall, they seem excited to help me learn. Same with the more experienced classmates,” said Jacob. Good to hear, I’d hate to show up there and see how many of them got a production Dodge pulling the front wheels 3 feet off the ground like this guy right here.

After the holidays, Jacob and the rest of his class will return for the second semester for some more hardcore Mopar training. I’m extremely excited to keep in touch with him and hear about all the new skills and concepts he has learned. It’s refreshing to see the excitement in someone coming into this thing so green gills. Turning wrenches on your own car is a very rewarding hobby. Turning wrenches on cars for great pay is a very rewarding career. This is especially true when it’s turning wrenches on the baddest hot rods being produced in our lifetime. We will follow up with Jacob soon to catch up on his thoughts of the program, being a technician, and how many 10mm sockets he has lost.

Regardless of your age or skillset, if you have a passion for Dodge and automobiles, or need a direction in life or a NEW direction in life, check out what Mopar CAP has to offer. If we don’t keep the younger generation moving through the program, we won’t have anyone left to fix our cars when we are all too old to bend over.

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