Car dealers go back to school - for their own good
In a bid to improve opportunities for its car dealership employees, Ford Motor Company, USA, has announced a specialised college degree programme with Northwood University. The four year degree course will begin in autumn 2002 with around fifty employees participating.
During the course of the past year, Ford - with dealer input from its Training Advisory Board and National Ford and Lincoln Mercury Dealer Councils - identified a need for high-performing dealership employees to be able to earn a four-year college degree.
Key employee benefits The pilot programme has been designed to meet a number of Ford's specific retail objectives:· To provide a way for dealers to attract career-oriented employees;· To improve employee retention;· To enhance employees' business and management skills;· To combine Ford's training with a tangible college degree opportunity.
The degree programme leads to a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Automotive Marketing and Management. In most cases more than 90% of the required class work will take place online, and each employee's background will be taken into account when developing a tailored programme. For example, work-related experience and previous Ford-based training may earn an employee up to one year of college credit.
Great opportunities The programme is a first for the industry. Following requests from Ford's dealership network for improved employee opportunities, the company responded with the approval of the degree course. Dr David Fry, president of Northwood University, said that "Northwood has built a new three-way partnership with radical technology which will force all of us to stretch. We are all committed to its success - this is a winner." And Ford Motor Company agrees. "It will help the business as well as be a great opportunity for our employees to improve themselves," says Terry Kidd, a Ford Dealer Council member.
Nancy Nagle, Ford's director of retailer education and training, recognises that education is an ongoing process, and says that the course will create a personalised approach "for dealership employees to earn a college degree that they may have thought unobtainable due to work, time and family obligations."
Employee retention Ford expects the degree programme to be an important factor in keeping top performers, particularly in its metropolitan dealerships. It will also help smaller dealerships develop high-performing employees in-house where they might otherwise have trouble recruiting people. The fact that the programme will build long-term relationships between dealerships and their employees is expected to result in higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.