Michael Coar joined the U.S. Air Force as a crew chief in 1996. After a 23-year career working on aircraft like the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jet, the master sergeant and his family were ready for retirement. They had a desire to make West Virginia their forever home, but after doing thorough research on the job market there, they realized quickly aircraft mechanic roles were sparse in that area.
Luckily, Coar had a knack for fixing things. For most of his career, when he wasn’t working on aircraft, he was tinkering in his garage, working on his automobiles.
“When we decided to move to West Virginia, we knew there was not much aircraft work,” Coar said. “I started looking into changing, to do something that I wanted to do, and cars have always interested me.”
For Coar, the change he was seeking became a tangible program available to him as a veteran through Hiring Our Heroes’ Military Technician Education Network (M-TEN). During an initial interview for a position at Advantage Toyota in Barbourville, West Virginia, Coar became familiar with the M-TEN program and pursued it to make the transition from an aircraft mechanic to an automotive service technician. He became the West Virginia dealership’s first M-TEN apprentice. Coar said M-TEN helped springboard him into a new industry.
“The program allowed me not only to use my mechanical background, but it allowed me to play catch up with all these technicians that I work with that have been doing it for five-plus years,” Coar said. “It got me caught up. I’m not the 40-year-old man with no experience. They were able to use my previous military experience and train me up faster than the average technician.”
A Solid Foundation for Veterans Who Want to Shift into the Automotive Industry
Developed by Toyota Motors North America in partnership with Hiring Our Heroes, M-TEN is currently a post-military training program that allows veterans to participate in a paid one-year automotive technician training program, earning credits toward becoming an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certified Technician for Toyota or Lexus. Program participants begin with at least 60 days of employment at their host dealership, then enter a yearlong paid apprenticeship consisting of 12 weeks of rotating classroom time at a training facility in Jacksonville, Florida, and hands-on training back at their hiring dealership.
Hiring Our Heroes’ M-TEN program manager Maryann Davit said the apprenticeship provides a solid foundation for veterans who want to shift into the automotive industry.
“So many of these men and women have the right transferrable skillsets for a career as an automotive service technician,” she said. “This program provides an accelerated path for them to get there.”
Coar, who graduated from the program in late 2020, is currently employed as a line technician at the West Virginia dealership. He said everyone he works with has been supportive of his military transition and he encourages other veterans to consider the program.
“Everyone here recognizes that I’m a veteran,” Coar said. “From the owner, my boss, all the way down to the oil change guy. They were all welcoming and there to help teach me because there’s a ton of stuff that I didn’t know. If this is a career you want to pursue and you’re eligible, I would suggest it.”