Interest Grows in Janssen Auto Tech Program

Interest Grows in Janssen Auto Tech Program Main Photo

31 Aug 2021

Twelve juniors and three seniors have registered for the Janssen Auto Technician Training program, which is now in its second year.

This unique program started in the fall of 2020 as a cooperative effort between Janssen Auto Group, Central Community College, ESU No. 11 and the Phelps County Development Corporation as a way to encourage interest in and train students for future careers as automotive technicians, which is a high-demand job locally and beyond.

The students earn high school credits and free college credits by enrolling in the program. PCDC is picking up the tab.

“Keeping students in the market helps sustain employers and also lays the groundwork for future growth,” PCDC executive director Ron Tillery said.

Part of PCDC’s mission is to encourage a strong local workforce and support local employers. This program fits right in with those goals. PCDC has invested about $2,500 into the program over the first two years.

CCC Regional Director Diana Watson said 12 juniors have signed up for the program for the 2021 fall semester, including 10 from Holdrege, one from Wilcox-Hildreth and one from Southern Valley. In addition, three seniors are continuing with the program after being part of the inaugural class in the fall of 2020.

Students learn basic shop functions using various shop equipment, including hand tools, special tools, measuring tools and fire equipment. The students will take one course each semester and one during the summer. Starting the program as juniors, they will have five college courses under their belt when they graduate from high school.

The class meets in the evenings at Janssen Ford and is taught by experienced auto technicians Jeff Ketelsen and Jason Hanson.

“I am very pleased that the program is not only continuing but is growing in enrollment,” Dan Janssen said.

Janssen was the force behind starting this program as he has seen a growing demand and need for auto technicians across the auto industry. Janssen Auto Group includes three locations in Holdrege, four other locations in Nebraska and one in Kansas.

“My biggest concerns when starting this program were student interest and having qualified instructors,” Janssen said. “So far, we are good on both. Jeff Ketelsen enjoyed it enough last year to continue teaching that class the second year. Jason Hason, our service manager at our Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram store, will be teaching the first-year students.”

Janssen said auto technicians have six-figure income potential, and it’s a job that’s in high demand in every region in the United States, and the demand is growing.

“With all of the new technologies, such as autonomous driving and electric vehicles, the future is bright for intelligent auto technicians,” Janssen said.

Janssen cited a nationwide shortage of auto technicians.

“That includes all of Nebraska and the communities in which we operate,” Janssen said. “We would add at least 10 new technicians within our group if they were available.”

Janssen said one student who took the class last year worked at Janssen Auto this summer and expressed a possible interest in coming back to Holdrege to work for Janssen in the future.

Janssen said he believes this model could also benefit other employers that have high-demand jobs available.

Since the Janssen Auto Tech program is in cooperation with CCC, it also gives students a jump start on CCC’s Automotive Career Pathway program.

“Students earn a certificate after completing the five required courses,” Watson said. “They'll have the basic theory, understanding, and hands-on skills for entry-level employment, and for those planning to pursue a diploma and/or associate's degree, they'll have the entire first semester's worth of coursework already completed.”

In addition to earning free college credit in high school, Watson said those who complete the program will also be eligible for the Transition Advantage Scholarship, which pays for 12 credit hours of courses at CCC after they graduate high school.

Watson said early enrollment numbers were initially slow for incoming juniors this year, but after moving the class start time to 6:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. it better-accommodated students who had sports practices or other after-school activities resulting in a surge in registrations.

With a full class this year, Watson encourages current sophomores to be ready to reserve a spot early for next year’s class when registration opens in April 2022.

For more information about the auto tech program at CCC, contact Diana Watson at For information about PCDC programs to encourage a strong local workforce, contact Ron Tillery at