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Automotive internships could pay off in jobs for high school seniors

A local car dealership is betting big on high school students to ensure its future.

Park Place Infiniti, 5605 W. Sahara Ave., has partnered with the Southwest and Southeast career and technical academies to offer internships to automotive students during the school year.

Richard Sepulveda is an 18-year-old senior at Southeast Career Technical Academy, 5710 Mountain Vista St., and is the dealership’s inaugural intern. He started in December and probably will finish at the end of this month. Interns usually work for six weeks at a time, said human resources manager Lynn Robles, but they made an exception to allow Sepulveda to stay longer.

“He expressed interest, and he’s a great employee, so we extended it,” Robles said.

Before his internship, Sepulveda was working part-time during the week at In-N-Out Burger but was able to reduce his schedule to just one day on the weekends. Sepulveda works at the dealership after school Monday through Friday for about 20 hours per week, making $10 per hour.

Robles said she would like to hire two or three interns at a time in the future, with the hope that some of them will come back to work at the dealership after graduation.

“They work just like any other employee,” Robles said. “They’re not sweeping the floor. It’s a job.”

Robles, shop foreman Rob Mowrer and service manager Mark Dilts visited automotive classes at the two schools to introduce the internship program. The dealership also donated more than $15,000 worth of machinery and other equipment to Southwest Career and Technical Academy, 7050 W. Shelbourne Ave., including three machines that evacuate and recharge air-conditioning systems.

The Park Place brand of dealerships was founded in 1987 and is based in Texas. Park Place purchased the local Infiniti dealership in June . Robles said the Texas dealerships have longtime internship programs.

Interns must be 18 for insurance purposes, Robles said, but the dealership plans to give educational presentations to younger students at those schools, too.

The interns get a look at the whole dealership operation. Sepulveda worked with automotive technicians in the service and parts departments and even on the sales floor.

While working on cars, Sepulveda was with a different technician every day.

“Instead of being stuck with one (mechanic) … I was able to see how they perform daily tasks in different ways and able to find my way,” he said.

And Sepulveda was not just doing routine oil changes, either. On his second day at the dealership, he helped with a 10-hour engine job.

“In (school) we don’t get into the hard core stuff,” he said. “I was telling my teacher about it. I felt like I had more confidence in my own shop at school after working with the mechanics.”

His favorite job so far, he said, was working as a service writer –– the employees who greet and help customers who bring their cars in for service –– because he likes working with clients.

As much as Sepulveda said he has enjoyed his time at Park Place, he plans to study hospitality management at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Robles said the dealership would “love to keep Richard, but we understand.”

The experience is not lost on him, though.

“Being here, I was able to see how the customer service side works,” Sepulveda said. “… This could really help me in the hospitality industry.”

For more information, visit parkplaceinfiniti.com.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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