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Shifting Gears: Veterans Transition from Military Service to Vehicle Service

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General Motors has a history of supporting U.S. military service men and women, including offering job training for soldiers transitioning from service in the U.S. Army to civilian life through the GM Shifting Gears Automotive Technical Training Program.

The Shifting Gears program, offered exclusively at Fort Hood, located in Killeen, Texas, is a partnership between the U.S. Army, GM and Vertex. It is designed for soldiers to participate in a 12-week auto technician training program prior to their separation date. This makes them qualified to work as an entry-level technician at a GM dealership when they complete active duty.

According to the National Automotive Dealers Association, the national shortage of skilled auto technicians is estimated to increase 900% by 2031. The Shifting Gears program helps address the need for skilled talent in the automotive field and provides a career transition opportunity for those who will be re-entering civilian life.

“There is a tremendous need for skilled auto technicians across the industry and we are focused on building the talent pipeline for these highly-technical careers,” said John Roth, GM global vice president, Customer Care and Aftersales. “Since launching the Shifting Gears program in August 2014, there have been 705 former soldiers who have graduated from the program. By combining their wealth of military experience and skills with our auto technician training, it brings unique and well-qualified talent into our GM dealerships.”

Sargent First Class Christopher Watters served 21 years in the U.S. Army where he served as a Light Wheel Mechanic. Growing up working on cars since he was a child and then working on military vehicles, the Shifting Gears program was of interest to him as he explored options for his next career. After successfully completing the training program, he went on to become a GM dealership auto technician. Continuing to invest in his career, Watters completed his ASE World Class Technician certification in September, making him one of approximately 2,000 technicians who have earned this distinction.

“The Shifting Gears program has allowed me to bridge my Army experience with my current career as an auto technician,” said Watters. “The sense of accomplishment after trouble shooting an issue with a customer’s vehicle is what drives me each day. I focus on my new mission; it’s no longer a military mission but one of taking care of my customers. They depend on me to service their vehicle and get them back on the road so they can continue with their day.”

According to the Pew Research Center, only one in four U.S. veterans have a job lined up after leaving the armed forces.

“Shifting Gears helps bridge the skills our soldiers developed in the Army into a meaningful career as they begin life back in their communities,” said Steve Bailey, Shifting Gears engagement specialist. “In addition to the auto technician training, the program also helps connect graduates with hiring GM dealerships. This support system helps set up our soldiers for success as they transition into the next part of their lives as civilians.”

The Shifting Gears program has become a recognized program in the Killeen community and recently was awarded the 2022 Torch Employer of the Year by Workforce Solutions of Central Texas.



Pew Research Center data

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