Toby Chess Helps California Techs Get a Jumpstart on Tools

Chess is donating tools to help apprentices build their necessary tool collections.

Mike Schaffer, center, with Alondra Salgado and her mentor Phat Troung, left, and Melissa Perez and her mentor Rod Perez, right.

When Mike Schaffer joined Selman Chevrolet in Orange, CA, as the collision center manager in 2012, he implemented the True2Form Collision Repair apprentice program at the 72-year-old dealership. Since then, he has focused his attention on attracting and retaining technicians.

“There is no shortage of good people,” said Schaffer. “We specifically look for good people. We do not hire for aptitude; we hire for attitude and teach aptitude.”

He said taking this approach helps extend the careers of their best, most experienced people.

However, Schaffer said it can be challenging to confirm if they are good people and typically has employees begin helping in the detail department to ensure they will show up for work and be worth training.

He also finds it challenging to be profitable with an apprentice within 30 days. As a result, the team teaches basic skills and efficiency.

“Giving each equal focus allows us to keep training and making money,” noted Schaffer.

Schaffer met Toby Chess when the first I-CAR welding certification class was held at Selman.

In support of Schaffer’s apprentice program, Chess provided tools and training to Schaffer’s apprentices.

“Toby is very supportive and inspirational to the new folks and the team leaders alike,” said Schaffer. “He includes everyone equally and goes out of his way to teach young and old alike.”

To encourage shop owners and managers to develop apprentice programs, Chess supplies a set of tools to the helper and asks shop owners to provide toolboxes. He also shares best practices documents he created that can be used in conjunction with OEM repair procedures and proper personal protective equipment.

Does your facility have an apprenticeship program in place? Autobody News would like to learn more. Email Editor Abby Andrews at

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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