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Behind the Partnerships: Lou Harrison of Wentworth Chevrolet
Photos and Story by James Hill
by James HillLou Harrison is the general manager for Wentworth Chevrolet in Portland and is the director of three stores (Portland, Wilsonville and Eugene). She is also the president of PCC’s Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) advisory committee. ASEP is a partnership between the college and General Motors Corporation designed to upgrade the technical skills and professional level of incoming GM dealership technicians. Students who go through the two-year program earn an associate’s degree and GM certification. Harrison, a Jefferson High School graduate, began working in the automotive world in 1970 while still in high school. She moved to Wentworth in 1971 as an office supervisor and then was promoted to office manager in 1977. In 1991, Harrison became the parts and services director and moved into her current roles in 1999. She has been an instrumental force on PCC’s advisory committee for ASEP."I can ask her to do anything for our program and she is always willing to do help," said Larry Adams, instructor in the Auto Service Technology program. Harrison got involved with ASEP in 1991. At the time, she saw the need to have a place where local auto dealers could have a trained and certified work pool to draw from, up on all of the latest technical aspects of the industry. As more and more high schools discontinue their automotive service training programs, ASEP becomes critical to train new students and re-train current professionals.Q: Why is ASEP so crucial?A: The number one thing is that students are coming out of PCC being able to go into the workplace immediately out of school. We work with the school to screen and get the right candidates coming into our business. You have to be sharp to do this type of work and the school has been instrumental in training them on terminology. We not only want kids that desire a long career here but also that are good citizens.Q: Are there a lot of opportunities to be a technician?A: If you have the talent, you can do it and move up in levels. I don’t know of a talented technician who has ever been laid off.Q: What is the best aspect of what you do?A: My favorite part of the job is being on the front lines and working with the customer, to make sure they get what they need. It’s a win-win situation when that occurs. Also, the people I work with are fun to be around.Q: What are your hobbies?A: My work is my hobby. But I have a 12-year-old who loves baseball and I umpire Little League when I can. And I love the Blazers. They are making things better and I’m not one to abandon ship. I’m also a die-hard Yankees fan. With my sons sports and my workload here, I’m very busy.Q: What is most important to tell people who are thinking of becoming a technician?A: It’s a good work environment. They will be close to home and not have to travel a long distance to get to work. It’s a good profession, not only for males, but for females as well. People shouldn’t limit their thinking as there are a variety of skill levels in this job.Q: What kind of skills would help them?A: I truly believe getting a two-year college degree is absolutely necessary. It would be great if they were good with people, and have good writing and math skills. There is a lot of opportunity.Q: What is most challenging about your job?A: That you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Not every customer is going to be satisfied, but we can try to satisfy most people. And, you have to think on your feet.Q: What is your favorite story about customer service?A: A customer had a large truck and he was a rather large man, who couldn’t comfortably rest his arm on the arm rest as it was too low. I listened to everyone who was trying to fix the armrest and nobody could do it. I went to our upholstery shop and had a pillow made. It cost us 100 bucks. All we did was add more padding and he’s happy. You have to know how to problem solve and work out the challenge. That’s what I like about what I do.