A Hollander Excellence Interview: Tom Phillips & Hennepin Technical College (Part 4)

June 2, 2015

On February 27th, Hollander Excellence sat down with Tom Phillips of Hennepin Technical College, of Brooklyn Park, MN. The conversation ranged a variety of topics including: Hennepin Tech’s curriculum, what they are doing to equip the next generation of auto mechanics, job placement, partnership with local industry and even – his favorite car.  If you missed Part 1 and 2, be sure to read them here, here and here.


Hollander Excellence: Tom the very last question that I have is just, I wanted to see if you had any message for maybe that baby boomer generation of collision shops, auto body shops, automotive recyclers about the preparation and general outlook of this new generation of students that are coming into the work force in the next, three to five years?

Tom:                I guess I really don’t have to because they’re all crying for people too. The unfortunate thing that I think is, if you remember I told you that I had taught high school and the high school that I taught was still Auto Body also, and in that process what I’ve noticed is that many of the high schools, many, many of the high schools because of the budget crunch or the cutting of budgets that they have opted out of technical training and these, when I went to school there were options that you could take certain classes. It wasn’t that you took that instead of math class but it was an extra thing, it was a way for somebody to hold on a little bit. My son, when he went to school the first when he couldn’t do something, they had the wood shop and that was all they really had left out of probably about when I think that school probably originally had probably about 5 or 6. By the time he made it to a sophomore, the closest thing he came to a technical class was pottery.

Hollander Excellence: [laugh]

Tom:                These students, and they’re bright kids, I mean every one of these kids. They’re able to capture the information, they’ve got so much enthusiasm and that’s really one of the things that these shop owners really like is just how fired up these kids are. They might not have, they’re lacking a little bit on the skills maybe as far as the quality level or the speed level of the skill but what they really like of these kids is how fired up they are, how gung ho they are. You know it’s snowing like crazy out there, “See that Buick that’s over there that’s got about 3 feet of snow? Can you clear the snow off of that and bring it in?” They’re out there smiling when they’re sweeping the snow off just to drive it in. Whereas if you get somebody like me, I look out and say, “Really? Can’t we find somebody else to do this?”

Hollander Excellence:             [laugh] They’re passionate. That’s a great thing.

And speaking of that passion and a last like fun question: What is your dream car?

Tom:                I don’t really have one.

Hollander Excellence:             What? [Laugh]

Tom:                No. I used to. It used to be so much fun, the thing that I’ve noticed, I built a car with my son when he was 14, I bought a car for $200 and I taught him how to do all the body work, we put a motor in it, we did brakes, we did all this stuff and it was just so much fun and when we got done, and it really wasn’t the  car I really thought would be something that I would want to buy, but he thought it was cool and it was a car that I would have worked on when it was brand new, but for me for right now, it’s not the car it seems like it’s the journey and I even told my son that after we got this car done I said, “You know, if we were driving across the railroad tracks and the car died and we both dashed out and it exploded as the train hit it, I don’t know that I would even care because it was really the memories of repairing the vehicle with him.”

I still like fixing cars but I don’t really have favorites anymore, I flipped it around, I have favorite people.

Hollander Excellence: A natural born educator....


Full Audio:

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