Engaged Interns: Narrowing the ‘experience gap’ with Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum

Some us recall as we were about to graduate – whether high school/vocational school, junior college, community college or college – that exasperating and unexpected moment when told, by prospective future employers, that we needed more experience to be hired. How were you supposed to get more experience when you were just graduating? In today’s market, automotive restoration graduates across the country are experiencing the same thing. Shop owners are hiring people with 3-5 years’ experience. Now what?

As we see it, narrowing the experience gap begins before graduation, with paid internships for program students, giving them direct experience in their field. The Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum (HEP) funds internships across the country, including at Pennsylvania College of Technology (Pennsylvania) and McPherson College (Kansas), two of the many schools we support. Meet three of our 2015 summer interns:

Jason Peters, America’s Car Museum Collection Management Intern
A car guy through and through, Jason spent his youth working side-by-side his father and uncle in the garage. As a young enthusiast, he bought a 1969 Ford Galaxie and restored it to the point of being invited to exhibit his 45-year-old beauty last year at the Art of the Concours Show in Kansas City. Surrounded by people who completely understand why cars are so interesting – at both McPherson College and America’s Car Museum – Jason learned everything he could, from Alfa to Zundapp, about restoration work and the industry with the goal of opening his own shop someday soon. Working in Collection Management at the Museum has expanded his skills of car maintenance and knowledge of car provenance that will enable him to serve the collector community well in the coming years.

Savana Cross, HEP Research Intern
When recently asked, “How do you know there are plenty of restoration jobs out there?” HEP approached schools and organizations across the U.S. for their answers…which were not plentiful. So, we created and launched a multi-year market research plan. McPherson College senior, Savana Cross, an honors business major, was the perfect fit for taking the lead on Phase One of the plan – researching, studying, interviewing program administrators and alumni, and compiling data about automotive restoration and preservation educational programs in North America. Her connection with automotive restoration is the college’s Annual Motoring Festival that takes place each May. Savana worked closely with the organizers, the school’s C.A.R.S. Club (College Automotive Restoration Students), in supporting the fundraising event. The winning combination of her directed-research experience with HEP plus exposure to people in businesses shaping the automotive restoration industry were favorable additions to her job-search tool belt.

McPherson College located in central Kansas, is a four-year private liberal arts college. It is the only school in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration technology. In addition to courses specific to auto restoration, students in this program take a variety of liberal arts classes that challenge them to use multiple learning styles to explore problems and find creative solutions. The campus community at McPherson College believes that student learning is enhanced through experiences. We are committed to providing excellent learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, such as internship experiences and experiences at industry events.

Vanessa Mathurin, LeBaron Bonney Company Intern
While Vanessa was growing up in Philadelphia, her passion for collector cars and the hobby grew by watching TV shows – car shows. Her search for educational programs in restoration with an focus on upholstery connected her with the two-year Associates degree program at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., from which she expects to graduate in 2016. Her appreciation for the art of upholstery has grown exponentially since she started the program, enhanced by her paid internship at LeBaron Bonney in Amesbury, Mass. Working with master pattern-makers gave her a level of expertise she could get only in a shop. She is anxious to use her developing skills on school restoration projects and winning awards at regional shows, as she and her classmates have already done in Hershey and Charlotte. Recently elected as treasurer of the Penn College Classic Cruisers car club, Vanessa is poised for landing her dream job in her dream field.

Pennsylvania College of Technology, featuring one of the oldest, continuously operating automotive programs in the nation, also has one of only a few college-level vintage vehicle restoration degree programs offered nationwide. Automotive Restoration Technology at Penn College students work on vehicles built between 1900 and 1975, including those from world-renowned museum collections. Their restoration efforts have earned a variety of awards. Penn College is a special mission affiliate of Penn State, committed to applied technology education.

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