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Episode 102 Transcript

Suzie Price: [00:00:00] 

Today, I'm talking with Eddie Hightower, the Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Social Responsibility for Caliber Collision. You're going to want to tune in if you want to see how a real purpose driven company operates. Caliber is an amazing company. I'm so impressed with who they are, and I'm very impressed with Eddie Hightower. Every episode that we produce matters. We feel like it matters to you, our listener. It matters to me as the person putting this together, and we spend time and effort to produce it, everyone, because we feel like they matter. But I have to say, this is one of my favorite episodes, and I'll tell you a little bit more about that when we get into it, but I can't wait to share it with you. Michael. Hit it!

Intro/Outro: [00:00:45] 

Welcome to the Wake Up Eager Workforce Podcast, a show designed for leaders, trainers and consultants who are responsible for employee selection and professional development. Each episode is packed full with insider tips. Best practices, expert interviews, and inspiration. Please welcome the host to his helping leaders, trainers and consultants everywhere Suzie Price.

Suzie Price: [00:01:14] 

Hi, I'm Suzie Price and you're listening to the Wake Up Eager Workforce Podcast, where we cover everything related to helping you and the employees in your organization build a high commitment, low drama, wake up eager workforce. So wake up eager. If you think about waking up eager, I'm happy. I want to go to work. I'm involved. I'm committed. I'm not actively quitting. I'm not actively disengaged. I'm engaged. I'm enthused. I'm excited about the work. We want to be a part of that. We want to be creating that with you. We want tools and resources and information and inspiration to create not only a wake up, eager workforce, but within that have wake up eager leaders, wake up eager teams, a wake up eager life. You know how we feel and our level of interest and involvement in what we're doing every day when we get up matters. It makes us have a fulfilling life. It makes us enjoy every day. It helps us be more productive and have a greater sense of self and value for who we are and what we do. And so just all of that is what creates a great life. And that's what we want to be a part of. We bring tools and resources to help everyone in organizations work more effectively and create this wake up, eager workforce. We look at topics around hiring, onboarding, and leadership development. We're talking about today, an interesting program that Caliber Collision has created to address the technician shortage in their industry.

Suzie Price: [00:02:51] 

Today is episode 102. And it's how Caliber Collision invests in talent and the future of the workplace. And so I do believe this is the future of the workplace. And we're going to talk about how they are the largest auto repair provider in the US and how they're addressing this shortage of trained technicians through a technician apprentice program. You're going to find it fascinating, because I think it may be the wave of the future. And this program has not only helped them address that shortage, but it's increased pride in the work and reduced turnover, and it's helping families all over the country. So it's the epitome of what we're talking about here in wake up eager workforce. Eddie talks a lot about culture and how important their culture is, and how their culture has driven the decisions that they've made and the investments that they made. That's why I say you're going to get to see how a real purpose driven company operates. We're going to talk a lot about mentorship. So not only in this technician apprentice program are employees that have been on the job for years and who are experts, become mentors. But we're also going to learn about Eddie Hightower's mentors, people who have made a difference in his life. And so that is inspiring and helps us remember how what we do and how we connect with people and help people around us impacts things down the road and how we can make a difference and the value of that.

Suzie Price: [00:04:21] 

And then he's going to share the one business investment that is always a sure bet. So you're going to want to stick around for that. Now let me give you a little bit about Eddie's background. He developed the initial environmental and social government programs for Caliber Holdings Corporation, a private equity backed company that is the largest collision repair provider in the US. His official title is Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Social Responsibility, and he also directs the company's business continuity, security and risk management and corporate insurance programs. Prior to this, he was a Senior Vice President of Teammate Services. He references that in our conversation, which was around human resources, employee relations, compensation, benefits, payroll, and then he was involved in a merger. That Caliber Collision had in 2019, along with handling response to the pandemic. Prior to that role, he was the Chief Administrative Officer and Head of Human Resources for Infinity Home Care, and he also held other interesting roles in law and Human Resources. He earned his J.D. at the University of Miami School of Law, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and History at the University of Denver, and he's a member of a bar association, has a lot of affiliations with different legal entities outside of work.

Suzie Price: [00:05:45] 

He served as a board member for the Animal Services Committee in Plano, Texas, and then some other law programs. A lot of no-kill animal shelters, which we talk about. He's a sought after industry speaker, and when not working, he enjoys traveling with his husband and walking their rescue dog and reading about history. And he is super enjoyable. I enjoyed our conversation so much, and I just wanted to give a little recap on how we connected. Because it kind of goes into why this is one of my favorite episodes, and then we'll go right into the episode. But he has a representative, Jenn Goonan, who is with Rocket Social Media, who reached out and said, hey, we would like to see if you would like to have Eddie on your podcast. And we get a lot of requests like that, and I've never accepted any of them. Once I read his background and what he was doing, my immediate response was, and I sent it very quickly, I said, hey Jenn, thank you for reaching out and making this connection. I don't usually respond to these types of requests, as we have a full slate and I have a million ideas and plans, which is true. This is my love child. This podcast is and I said to Jenn, his representative, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart and we would love to have Eddie and what he is doing on our podcast.

Suzie Price: [00:07:02] 

And so here's why this topic is so near and dear to my heart. I think it's worth sharing. We talk about it a little bit in the episode, but first and foremost, I could tell that what Caliber is doing is about helping people have more hope for their future and have confidence in their roles, and I'm a strong proponent of that. I want to see people reach their potential. It's my driving force. It's why I wake up eager. It's why I work even when I don't have to. This idea of wanting people to be who they came here to be, and to find their way and almost get emotional talking about it. It just really matters. And so Caliber is doing that in a big way. Part of that is that strong energy around being the best you can be is always personal, right? So I have three very beautiful, smart nephews. I never had children, so I'm very involved in their life and they had a little bit of chaos in their family. So my husband and I got involved. I was already always involved in their life, but got a little bit involved and tried to help mentor and guide and give more support as needed. And each of them have taken a non-traditional work focus. And so this apprenticeship program is similar to a little microcosm of what we've been doing in our family, is helping these beautiful young men find their way.

Suzie Price: [00:08:28] 

And they each have found success and we're so proud of them. The oldest nephew is a superintendent at a very large commercial construction company, and he just completed a $70 million art museum for Penn State. So he went up to Penn State for two years, and he was in charge of that with a team. But it's amazing how he has grown. My middle nephew went to a technical college for Machine Tool Technology and has launched his machining business. Parts by Drake is the name of it, and he has an employee already and an intern, and he's growing like crazy. My husband is very involved in mentoring both of them in those fields because he's an entrepreneur and a successful executive in a company that he's grown. And then the youngest nephew is currently launching a watercraft fly fishing business called Upriver Boatworks. So each of them are super bright and smart and capable, not really focused on college. And we talk about that in this interview, how you can still be successful and make the most out of your life without a college degree. And by learning some of these skills and going the non-traditional route when it makes sense. There's nothing wrong with college, of course, but how there is this other path, but each of them are making more than most college graduates make, and then none of them have any debt that they're carrying around from a college degree.

Suzie Price: [00:09:55] 

Super important. You can see why when I read what he was doing, as you listen to this episode, why I wanted to have him on. The third thing is because of all the boy energy in my household, we're very car crazy here too. My husband loves cars. All the nephews love cars. They have a building with cars in it. They have race cars and drag race cars, and they fix cars and they have cars on lifts and. And everything is about cars. And if you work with me at all, you know that we use car analogies and everything I do. So of course, this just sewed up the fact that we were going to have him on the podcast. So if you want, we talk about the car analogy. It's in the show notes. You'll see an image of that. If you're not familiar with the car analogy that we use to explain the five areas of job fit, get the show notes and everything that we talk about today go to all one word And that's all lowercase. Let's go to the episode. Now I know you're going to love it.

Suzie Price: [00:11:05] 

All right Eddie, welcome I'm so glad you're here today.

Eddie Hightower: [00:11:08] 

Thank you so much for having me, Suzie.

Suzie Price: [00:11:09] 

We're going to jump right into the topic. I did a little research and. I saw that there is a shortage of people to do the work. Mechanics, technicians, and they're talking about a 113,000 person shortage. The other thing I saw last week was the 19th Annual Apprenticeship Week, which I didn't know there was such a thing. So that is so neat that that's being promoted. So that leads us into what the nation's largest automotive service is doing around your Technician Apprenticeship Program. Tell us a little bit about that.

Eddie Hightower: [00:11:43] 

Absolutely. And Suzie, again, it's such a pleasure to be here today to talk about something we're very passionate about here at Caliber Collision. And thank you for the plug at the beginning to that. We are the nation's largest collision repair provider in the United States. We actually have 30,000 teammates across 40 states, 1700 collision locations. And so we feel that it's really an obligation, if you will, and an honor to do what we're doing. You're exactly right on the numbers, and the numbers don't get better over time, the numbers actually get worse over time is that we are facing now and into the future a trained technician shortage. So about two years ago, realizing that this was coming our way is that we decided to take action. And so Caliber committed back two years ago now, to building an apprenticeship program on a national level, something that no one has ever done before in this space. And we had our first full year last year. We ended up graduating 271 trained technicians out of the program in the first year. I am very proud to announce that we just trained and graduated our 1,000th apprentice out of our program and now just going on two years into the program. So we're very excited about what the program is producing, and we're excited about the impact that we're having now for our own business and also for the communities we serve, our insurance partners, and actually you. If you have a car and you have insurance, this is also helping you by helping reduce costs, reduce turnaround time for repairs, and really just all around delivering a really cool, great thing that we're doing for the people.

Suzie Price: [00:13:26] 

So tell me about going about starting an apprenticeship program, because we often talk about it and I mentioned it before we started. I have nephews who have gone through their own type of apprenticeship and how uncommon that seems to be. It used to be, maybe years ago, more common maybe. I don't know how long ago because I don't know the history of it, but it seems as though it might be coming back. I mean, you're evidence of it. I heard on the news recently that some businesses are less impressed with college degrees and more impressed with who the person is and their capability and training. So maybe apprenticeship is back. Talk a little bit about that. Talk a little bit about how hard it was to start this, what were the challenges, and why is it working so well? I mean, it's amazing you have a thousand graduates. That's amazing.

Eddie Hightower: [00:14:11] 

Absolutely. I think it all goes back to a kind of a change in public education. I remember when I was in school, actually, my high school had a collision repair program, and those have really kind of fallen off on the side. Now, I won't say how long ago I was in high school, but you could just imagine, you look at the loss of the hair and imagine that the time when I was actually in high school. But those programs kind of went away. And that's because there really became this belief that without a college degree, that you couldn't get ahead in life, that you couldn't make a good living, that there weren't alternatives to that. And so they developed this kind of what we call, and I think you'll hear this term out there, it's called a paper ceiling. Is that without a college degree, you weren't going to get ahead in life. And that simply is not the case. And our industry is really evidence that if our trained technicians are experienced train technicians, a lot of people don't know that that's a six-figure income job. And imagine the impact that that has not only on our apprentices lives and then our technicians lives, but on their families and their communities as well.

Eddie Hightower: [00:15:17] 

In addition to serving everyone who needs their car repaired, if you think about it. And so it kind of fell out of favor talking about apprenticeships as an alternative to college. You really saw this focus in public schools in particular, that guidance counselors were trying to get you into, into college, and that was their whole focus. But now I think that there's such a focus at the federal level and state levels, and I think California is a great example, they have an incredibly innovative program in California. They're in their second year now. They have put aside $150 million at the state level in grants that are available to fund programs like ours. And so I think you're starting to see this refocus on providing alternatives to our youth. You know, your nephews that you mentioned, what a great example. They're doing so well, and it's not because they went to college because they probably followed their passion and they're building on that and they're creating a life out of that. And what a great story.

Suzie Price: [00:16:15] 

We're a little microcosm of what Caliber is doing in our family. But it takes seeing the strengths, it takes mentorship, it takes guiding them and helping them see something that they couldn't see if we weren't mentoring them. And so that's how I see replicating all over the country with what you're doing. And it almost makes me emotional because you see up front what difference that's making for people. And like you said, it's all around it. It impacts everybody. It's amazing.

Eddie Hightower: [00:16:49] 

It sure does. And just building on that a little bit, I think probably the most emotional things that happen are our graduation ceremonies. Our program is an always on program, so we have people joining and graduating every day. And we're limited in our program size by the number of mentor techs that we have. We have about 2000 mentor techs, which means we can have about 2000 participants in our program at any given time, which we do. And the great thing about our program is we actually have a waiting list to get into our program. But the cool, emotional thing that happens is the graduation, so we make sure that the graduations are special for everyone who comes out of our program. They're attended by family members. We make a big deal out of them, out of the centers. And there's one in particular that was just so striking to me. I wasn't there, but it was described by the program manager to me, and she said that it was generational. So it was our top participant with his family and his kids, and his parents were there, and his brothers and sisters were all in attendance. And she saw that they were all crying, you know, the emotional impact. And she went over to them and was like, you know, this is such a joyous event, like, why is everyone crying? And it was because he was the first person in the family who had graduated from any program. That's the impact that the program is having on the lives of people who are in it.

Suzie Price: [00:18:06] 

One of the tools we use measures how much hope someone's feeling about their future, their sense of belonging and their sense of worth, and it impacts their performance. So if you can know a little bit about that. So to me you're impacting every piece of that. And I've seen that in my nephews. The sense of hope was not there because of what they had been exposed to, and so the hope comes up and then and then it's like, okay, I have a place I belong, I have a title, I have expertise, I have a belonging, and all of that impacts this very complex piece called Sense of Worth. Knowing I have value, and so you kind of have to have hope for the future. And you kind of got to have, you know, I know where I belong, and sometimes people haven't had that experience. And that's what you're describing. That's amazing.

Eddie Hightower: [00:18:57] 

Yeah. And that's what we're seeing in people who come through the programs. And I'm so lucky that we actually circulate the picture. So we highlight the graduates in our internal communications. And so I'm on the distribution list. So I get to see the pictures of all the graduation ceremonies every day that come through. And it's one of those times where you're going, if I'm focused on something on my desk and I look up because I've seen an email come through a message with the graduation picture, it sure picks you up, because you know why you're doing this.

Suzie Price: [00:19:26] 

For our listeners, I found a video that was a summary that you all did. It's a good one. I just shared it on LinkedIn, but we'll put it on the show notes where it's some people talking about their experience, and it's probably from a graduation celebration. How hard was it to get this kicked off?

Eddie Hightower: [00:19:46] 

The really great thing about Caliber, and again, I've been with Caliber for eight years, and one of the reasons I joined was because a lot of companies say that they're a purpose driven company. We are a real purpose driven company, and our highest purpose is called Restoring the Rhythm of Your Life. And that applies to everything that we do. And so knowing that and driving toward that purpose made it really easy to make the commitment because we knew this was the right thing to do, and that's also one of our core values, is to do the right thing. It's our first core value. But to fulfill that, restoring the rhythm of your life, we felt we had the responsibility and the opportunity to do this, and then it took honestly, one thing you left out of the list of things you have to have is resources. And we committed a lot of money to building this program. In our first year, we spent in excess of $20 million to build this program. In our second year, we spent in excess of $40 million. So we've doubled the investment. And so that's how seriously we take it. But that's what it takes. It takes people. It takes the right leaders.

Eddie Hightower: [00:20:52] 

We have great leaders who have built this program from the bottom up. It takes expertise, it takes inspiring mentors to be in the program, to keep them going because it can be tough. So if your mentor has an apprentice who just doesn't make it, is not cut out to do this work that can be a derailer. And so keeping all of that going. So it's every piece of this, but you have to have the investment. You have to have the corporate purpose and commitment, and then you have to keep it going through the mentors. So it's every piece of everything you named that you've got to keep going to do this. So it was incredibly difficult to stand up. We had our fits and starts. And I won't say that it's easy every day to keep this going. But again, when you see the impact, you see the outcomes. You hit those milestones like the thousandth apprentice coming out of the program that gives you the breath, you know, comes back and you say, all right, let's keep going and let's keep building on this. And that's what we're doing. I mean, this is for the long haul.

Suzie Price: [00:21:52] 

And having the successes helps everybody stay committed because I'm sure there are, folks, because we all have different focus areas for a reason. And that has said, okay, now where's the ROI on this? And while they're still bought in, they're still saying, what's the return? Are we getting a return? So I'm guessing you have to kind of make that case even though there is excitement. But I mean, just in any organization that would you that was what you would have to have the balance.

Eddie Hightower: [00:22:18] 

It totally is. It totally is. Now, what we're finding, though, is that our apprentice participants by about the fourth month of the program, and it's a year long program, and so our apprentices join the program, and they do a combination of on the job training and what we call related instruction, which is really online training to reinforce the concepts. So they're turning around day one on a real car and they learn the basics disassembly, reassembly, how to take things apart before they put them together. And then they're building their skills and their confidence. And by about month four, they're actually billing time because they're actually doing real work on real cars in real production in our facilities. And talk about your sense of worth, because now, after not too many months in a program, you know, we're not talking years. We're talking months that they start to see the outcome of what they're doing. And then when they deliver a car, when they're part of delivering a car back to a customer in pre-accident condition, that drives them because they see the outcome of their work. And by the way, this is a combination of technology, because today's cars are really computers that are wrapped in metal, and an art because to see a panel that's crumpled and to uncrumple it and to build it, and then the painting that goes into it to make that car exactly what it was before it came in. And we all love our cars. I mean, this is, you know, sometimes we name our cars, right? I mean, this is the thing.

Suzie Price: [00:23:41] 

We love our cars.

Eddie Hightower: [00:23:43] 

When something happens to you just you feel like something happened to a kid, and so you've got to see it come back to you. And so when they're a part of that, that drives them forward.

Suzie Price: [00:23:52] 

Yeah. It's a craft that we sometimes could take for granted, but it sounds like at Caliber you're really doing a great job of highlighting that and instilling that sense of pride in the work.

Eddie Hightower: [00:24:04] 

We actually call our technicians artisans.

Suzie Price: [00:24:08] 

So everywhere you turn, it sounds like you're helping them see the value of it and not taking it for granted. It's the core of your business. That's amazing.

Eddie Hightower: [00:24:16] 

Absolutely, absolutely. And that's what we're about.

Suzie Price: [00:24:18] 

That's amazing. So anything else you would say about successes and challenges that we haven't already covered? And then tell me what's coming for the program.

Eddie Hightower: [00:24:28] 

I think that if you look at my background, you see, well, he's the head of sustainability? Well, what does that have to do with the Technician Apprentice Program? What's his connection there? Well, so it's part of building a sustaining workforce. And one of the things I'm very much about is thinking about my legacy. Where do I want to leave the company from when I came into the company and I feel like I have had just the best opportunity. Here they're about if you raise your hand to volunteer for something, they will let you do it. And so I kind of found this spot of raising my hand and saying, hey, how can I support TAP? And so one of the things I get to do is I get to build the excitement for the program, do things like this, and then I actually get to fundraise a little bit for the program. Invite people on our journey. I will tell you some of the highlights for just our first year. My first year in actually supporting TAP is we've had some really nice successes in fundraising and building that support from external sources. One of the things I'm proudest of is the Texas Workforce Commission had identified collision repair technicians as a needed skill set in the state of Texas and developed a grant program, which we applied for. And we actually got an award of about a half million dollars for our program.

Eddie Hightower: [00:25:51] 

So that's what I get to do, because I'm thinking about the legacy of this program and the lives that we're impacting. And I look ahead and I say I want to see our company doubled in size in the next five years as I might be on my way onto the next thing I'm doing. But I want to have that sense of accomplishment for everybody whose lives we've touched, and I find that incredibly fulfilling. But that's what we're doing. We're building on the program. Our limiting factor is really our mentor techs. So building more mentor techs, keeping them in the program, that's an ongoing opportunity for us. So we do a lot of things like doing surveys, finding out what they like, what they don't like, how can we improve the apprenticeship program for mentors and apprentices? And again, sometimes the truth is hard and we get very honest feedback, but the thing you got to do, as we say at Caliber, we say there's no good news or bad news. It's just news and it's what you do with it that is what's important. And so we're about soliciting feedback and acting on the feedback. And we have heard some lessons that we've learned in our first couple of years that we're acting on now to improve the program into the future. So that's what we're doing. We're building the program, we're building interest in it, and hopefully we're working on the waiting list to get into the program by building more mentor techs.

Suzie Price: [00:27:08] 

Yes, absolutely. So if somebody's listening now and they're saying, hey, I want to be a part of that, I want to find out how your fundraising, how could they contribute because they have some kind of interest or something, or maybe somebody is listening and their son or daughter would be a good mentor tech, what would we say? How would they contact Caliber or how would they reach out?

Eddie Hightower: [00:27:31] 

Absolutely. So on our website, on our main website at you will find the front page on how to enroll in our mentor program. How you can express interest to either be a mentor or a participant. And it's all there. And it goes through what the program is, how it works, some great videos like what you were talking about to learn more about the program, and then through that we have contact forms on there to express interest. I obviously am happy to receive direct emails if someone wants to learn how they can support their program financially or get involved in that as well.

Suzie Price: [00:28:07] 

That's great. That's great. Boy, this could be a win-win for so many people and other organizations who benefit from your work. So in fundraising and other grants, that's amazing. I never really thought about the grants. It'd be interesting to see what happens over the next 15 years in regard to apprenticeships. I mean, are there more apprenticeships happening now that you're in this, have you received contact from other people or other companies that are doing this similar thing?

Eddie Hightower: [00:28:32] 

We have. We actually spend a lot of time talking to other companies that are asking how we did it and how we're going about it.

Suzie Price: [00:28:39] 

I was figuring you were the leader in it. 

Eddie Hightower: [00:28:41] 

Well, we're happy to share the information and to help people in the space to do this. Again, we train our apprentices and we work hard to keep them, to stay with us. But again, we're developing this lifelong skill that they have. They can be taken anywhere. It's our responsibility to keep them at Caliber. And we earn that. As you know, you've got to earn people coming back every day to work for you, and that's on us. But we feel that we're doing good for the whole industry, because when we train a tech to our standards and they go somewhere else, it's our loss, of course, but it's also a gain for the industry because they have a really well trained technician out there doing great work.

Suzie Price: [00:29:18] 

And that's part of either your mission and core value was, you know, we want to change how the automotive industry is perceived in the world.

Eddie Hightower: [00:29:28] 

Exactly. You got it. Our vision is to change the image of the auto services industry. Yep. That's exactly right.

Suzie Price: [00:29:38] 

That's right. And one other thing that I'll say, you can tell I'm totally fanning over you and what you're doing. I'm a total fan, girl, but one thing you had on your LinkedIn profile was you could have all the right strategy in the world, but if you don't have the right culture, you're dead.

Eddie Hightower: [00:29:51] 

That's exactly right.

Suzie Price: [00:29:52] 

That's kind of what you were just speaking to.

Eddie Hightower: [00:29:54] 

That's exactly right. It's all about the culture and the culture we create and as you know, the behaviors that you tolerate is the culture you create. And again, we don't get it right every day, but something that I've heard you talk about on some of your videos, which I love, which is I call it grace, you know, give yourself grace because we're all learning and culture isn't going to be right every day, but you gotta keep working at it because it's always a work in progress. So I summarize your video that I saw, which was to give yourself grace and forgiveness. 

Suzie Price: [00:30:26] 

And I always have a high standard and keep reaching for it and looking towards it. And that's amazing. And I saw a description of it, you've created an internal trade school. That was a good description of it too.

Eddie Hightower: [00:30:38]

That's exactly what it is. And it's different in that it's competency based. So a lot of programs are out there that are time based. We don't believe that just sitting in a seat for 24 months or 30 months makes you a qualified technician. And so that's what differentiates our program from many programs that are out there, because you have to demonstrate the skills in order to move forward in the program and to finally graduate from the program. So that's a key differentiator for our program versus a time based program.

Suzie Price: [00:31:06] 

Yeah. And oh, by the way, we should have that for all leaders in every organization you need to demonstrate that you can lead our people.

Eddie Hightower: [00:31:17] 

Wouldn't that be great? Like a no fault system of hey, we'll put you in a management role, but we could always take you out if you don't meet the standards. 

Suzie Price: [00:31:25] 

I think there's something to it.

Eddie Hightower: [00:31:26] 

I think there is. I think there is. And I think Gallup would say you're right. Because it's Gallup. Right? It's the manager, and that's exactly right. It's the manager.

Suzie Price: [00:31:36] 

It's the manager. Yes, yes. And I'm sure you have good programs for that as well.

Eddie Hightower: [00:31:41] 

We do. Yes, yes, we actually have something called Leadership in High Gear. And so every general manager in our organization, as soon as they are appointed as or hired to be a general manager of one of our locations, they come to a week long program where we teach them about leadership and we teach them our expectations that we teach them the right, the wrong and the indifferent about how to inspire their people. And then we have a lot of follow up and programs behind it to make sure that we're reinforcing those programs and the expectations around that. And just a lot of support and ongoing training for our leadership. We invest quite heavily in leadership development at Caliber. And you can see that a lot of our management, our top management ranks, especially in our C-suite, have come from the floor of one of our collision centers all the way, like our Chief Operating Officer, he actually came from a collision repair center and moved all the way up into the position he's in today. So we can show you that there is a path to that at Caliber. So we're about where opportunity meets the road, really with us is we can show you that you can do this. 

Suzie Price: [00:32:50] 

So it not only paints a picture, but it also puts somebody in those seats or people in those seats who understands the business at a whole different level, a whole different level from having experienced it. So you have a mix of that, and then you get people from the outside who bring that perspective. It's just fascinating. 

Eddie Hightower: [00:33:10] 

Exactly right. Yeah. And it takes all those different points of views, a mix of public company, private company in different industries. And I think it's really just a nice mix where everyone is so open to ideas. And again, we're all about feedback and consistent feedback and soliciting feedback. And we all know that the response to receiving feedback here at Caliber, we ingrain it from day one, which is thank you for the feedback. And again it goes back to being open and receiving. And we've all agreed that when we need direct and give direct feedback, that we're open to receiving it. And in the script in which it's intended.

Suzie Price: [00:33:48] 

Wow. When you have such clear guidelines like that, it's easy to see one that lets people know what's expected, and then when that doesn't happen, it's easier to have that conversation because you've let them know. Everybody knows what's expected. So that's amazing. That is a wonderful culture. Talk a little bit about how this big investment, you talked a little bit about $20M, first year, $40M second year for just this Technician Apprentice Program, how has that impacted the employee satisfaction and overall culture? We've talked about it a little bit in this conversation. But anything else you can share about that?

Eddie Hightower: [00:34:24] 

Yeah, I think what we're seeing is a really real impact on our mentors, our mentor techs, those who sign up to be mentors in our program. Their turnover rate is going down. And so we believe that the theory that we had going into this, which was it would create committed apprentices that when they see the investment that we've made in them, and it costs us more than $45,000 to put someone through our apprenticeship program, that's every apprentice we're spending that amount of money to get them through the program because it's a paid apprenticeship program. We pay these apprentices from day one. They get benefits from day one, they are employees. They're one of our teammates from day one. So they get everything, including 401k retirement benefits, all those things. But the impact is our mentors, we thought, we had a theory that the mentors would feel more committed once they saw that they had created the next generation of technicians. It's turning out to be true.

Suzie Price: [00:35:21] 

Yay, yay! What are they saying and what's happening?

Eddie Hightower: [00:35:24] 

It's their pride. They show up to these graduation ceremonies and they say, where's my next apprentice? That's how we're seeing it. 

Suzie Price: [00:35:32] 

So they've maybe not seen themselves as, oh, I'm a teacher or I'm so skilled that they want me to teach the new people.

Eddie Hightower: [00:35:43] 


Suzie Price: [00:35:44] 

I guess you probably maybe before that maybe didn't have an official mentor or training. I'm sure you had some kind of training or you still do, but...

Eddie Hightower: [00:35:51] 

Yeah, it was really not structured as it is now, you know, now we're a registered apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor and that adds some more real structure to it. But we had some more informal training because a lot of times how people become technicians at Caliber is that a technician would see a detail or someone who had started by prepping cars for delivery and said why don't you learn how to disassemble a car for me? And then they have a real flair for it. And then a technician would say, ah, you know, this person, I see that they have an interest and they have kind of a knack for it. So they would take them under their wing kind of informally and move them along and then add them to a team, is what we encourage here at Caliber to work in teams, and then this gives them now the structure where we can say, this is a formal way of recognizing that you as a trainer, because you've been doing this for years, you just didn't know that you've been doing it. You're exactly right.

Suzie Price: [00:36:47] 

Yep. And those of us who love to train, I mean, I literally shouldn't say this too loud, but I do it for free. I mean, I don't do it for free, but I would. If you're a teacher, I have this little card here association, development of trainers or whatever. So I love developing others, you know. So it was just like it's like that's my most favorite thing in my whole office. It is. It is.

Eddie Hightower: [00:37:09] 


Suzie Price: [00:37:09] 

You just have a heart for that. You just do, you know, teachers are teachers. Yeah. So that's amazing. So one of the huge benefits amongst all the other benefits is this turnover rate is lower for your mentors and the pride that they're feeling.

Eddie Hightower: [00:37:24] 

Absolutely. And then for us, as you asked about the business case, when a trained technician stays with us longer, there are more efficient technicians. And so the longer that we can keep a trained, skilled technician in our workforce, the better for Caliber, the better for our insurance partners, and by the way, the better for you as a policy holder for your automobile.

Suzie Price: [00:37:44] 

So because of their training, they're just more efficient, more effective. It's just structured. 

Eddie Hightower: [00:37:50] 

Exactly right.

Suzie Price: [00:37:51] 

And maybe more hungry too, because they've gone through this program or came from a place where they didn't already have any of this skill. 

Eddie Hightower: [00:38:02] 

And you know, I think the mentors see a bit of themselves in their apprentices. They knew that they were there one time and someone took an interest in them. They knew how that felt. And back to your how fulfilling is that for you, especially if you have a teacher's heart that that is something that is incredibly fulfilling, self fulfilling, and then you see the outcome of it as well.

Suzie Price: [00:38:21] 

That's amazing. The future for the program, it's continuing on and good things are going to happen or continue to happen.

Eddie Hightower: [00:38:32] 

It is. Absolutely. And so we actually talk about it as building a movement. And one of our goals and objectives is actually to train and deploy 10,000 new technicians over the next five years. That's 2000 new technicians a year that we're going to be producing out of the program.

Suzie Price: [00:38:49] 

Wow, that's exciting.

Eddie Hightower: [00:38:52] 

And that's why we want to have everybody join us in doing this.

Suzie Price: [00:38:56] 

Sing it from the rooftops, and we're going to be a part of it with you and for you and celebrating what you're doing. It's fantastic. Absolutely.

Suzie Price: [00:39:03] 

All right. This is the end of part one of episode 102 How Caliber Collision Invests in Talent the Future of the Workplace. You can find the show notes and everything about this episode and links, and how you can find out more. Or connect with Eddie Hightower on LinkedIn and find out about the Caliber training program. I've got a link there, and I've got a little video that you can watch the car analogy images there, and links on our site that relate to some of the things that we've talked about. But you can go to And so there's going to be a part two, so check back in at And also know that you can get the transcript. We have written transcripts of every episode. So if that's a way to skim content you can do that. And I want to remind you to subscribe to the Wake Up Eager Workforce Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And I just want to also remind you that we're continuing to give away a Workplace Motivators Assessment. It's a 24 page report that tells about what puts gas in your tank, what causes you to want to take action. You could use it for yourself, you could share it with a friend, a neighbor, a child. But it really tells you why you like to do what you do, really speaks to people and helps people. That whole idea of becoming all that you can be and using your talents and staying engaged and waking up eager.

Suzie Price: [00:40:30] 

It comes with over 100 resources that are there online you won't be sold to. You'll get a link to an assessment that you can share with anybody and get immediate access to the development resources if you will create a review for us. So you go to iTunes or anywhere and leave a review on the podcast. I'm always scratching my head trying to figure out how we can get more listeners, not because I want more listeners for an image thing. It's because I think this content is good. I think we're sharing information about very interesting people, and if other people are looking for this information, I want them to find it. And so if you've gotten something from any of this, it would just do my heart such, goodness, I would feel so good about having more reviews so people can find us. So leave us a review. Let me know that you did it, and I'll send you a link and you'll be on your way to have a great report about what puts gas in your tank. And or you can share it with somebody. You can find all of our podcast episodes by going to And you can reach out to me anytime by going to S-U-Z-I-E, I really appreciate you tuning in. I appreciate you being a part of my Wake Up Eager world, and just go out and have a great, happy, healthy day and we'll see you at the next episode, which will be part two of this discussion.

Intro/Outro: [00:42:05] 

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