Jimmy O’Kelly had stepped foot in an RV once or twice in his life, he said, before enrolling in a Facebook pilot program that gave him a new career opportunity.
Six months later, Action RV gained a new technician that founder Mark Podeyn said checks all the boxes.
Action RV, a Bosque Farms, New Mexico, aftermarket service center, announced Dec. 8 it hired the former retirement home groundsman. The pilot program which matched O’Kelly and Action RV is a partnership between New Mexico Workforce Connections and Facebook that places trained marketing interns in qualified businesses for job training and experience.
“I came in with no idea what the job or training entailed,” O’Kelly said after being placed with an RV business. “Now that I’ve been here, I’ve fallen in love with the job, the industry and the people. It’s just a completely different experience than I’ve ever had.”
O’Kelly beat out 181 other applicants to join the permanent staff as Level One RV Technician.
Podeyn said it usually takes 90 to 120 days until a new hire settles in, while O’Kelly joins the staff with six months’ experience under his belt.
“From an employer or supervisor point of view, I don’t have to worry about him hitting the ground and being 100 percent productive to justify why we hired him,” Podeyn said. “It takes the pressure off the new hire to perform at peak levels at the beginning, so he can start learning without feeling that he’s not being productive.
“Our culture is, fear and learning cannot co-exist. If we have a culture and environment where you won’t be ridiculed, even for making mistakes, learning flourishes,” Podeyn said.
O’Kelly said he chose the business through the program. The application and placement processes were completed within 10 days, he said.
“After the interview process, I just felt the company provided everything I was looking for,” O’Kelly said. “Training, further education and the atmosphere is so welcoming. I thought it was a tremendous opportunity and I am grateful for it.”
O’Kelly said the training at Action RV is the best he received. As a tech-in-training, he is learning everything about the RV besides the engine. The business’ training process involved the entire company, from the front desk to technicians supervising in the back.
Action RV created a training program prior to the internship to ensure O’Kelly learned all the essentials, Podeyn said. The company also provided a monthly evaluation, detailing what O’Kelly learned, his attendance, hours worked and whether he fit into company culture.
“It’s very seldom you find people who are willing to put in the time, emotion and finances to train someone to be a productive worker,” O’Kelly said. “I’m not young anymore, and I would recommend this to anyone who is trying to better themselves.”
New Mexico Workforce Connections uses federal grant money to cover a significant portion of O’Kelly’s wages while training at Action RV. The employment center also offered a $9,000 grant to pay a portion of O’Kelly’s higher-level training at the RV Technical Institute, Podeyn noted.
A new hire makes $16 hourly for 30 days, Podeyn said, until they are comfortable enough to move to a commission-based pay system. New Mexico Workforce Connections covers $12 of that wage.
Podeyn learned about the training program through a Facebook economic development group. Action RV applied and was accepted upon meeting three criteria: available worker’s compensation, general liability insurance and being current on state taxes.
Podeyn said the vetting process was easy and quick. O’Kelly joined the Action RV team within a week of the company’s application, he said.
“[The program] is really an amazing opportunity for both of us,” Podeyn said. “One of the things for us, we’re an independent RV service center. We can’t afford higher wages and benefits that dealerships can pay. Technicians come in and we have to train them ourselves.”
Podeyn noted he believes a similar program exists in Florida. He said he already started reaching out to buddies to spread information about the program and its success at Action RV.
“If I was to tell anybody [about the program] or describe it all in one word, the word is ‘amazing,’” O’Kelly said. “To be given an opportunity in the industry I know nothing about, and have someone train you the right way because they care about their company so much, I have to restrain my gratitude. You don’t find opportunities like this very often in life.”