JVS Grad Keeps His Customers Trucking
Mike Gilles, Automotive Technology, Class of: 1986
As the demand for experienced commercial and automotive technicians escalates, it seems fair that Mike Gilles expects a little more from his employees.
"For mechanics, it used to be about who had the biggest tool box," said Gilles, vice-president of Ray's Auto & Truck Service. "But today, with technology advancing by leaps and bounds, it's all about who has the best laptop and software."
The family-owned company was founded in 1979 by his parents, Ray and Jeanne Gilles. They started out in a 2,100 square-foot facility behind their Avon home. The business has grown significantly and is now located in a 14,000 square-foot facility on Colorado Avenue in Avon.
"I'd come home from school and get right to work," said Gilles, proud to follow in his father's footsteps. "I never considered a different career."
This is why Gilles enrolled in the JVS Auto Technology Program.
"Everything clicked at the JVS," said Gilles, who graduated in 1986. "Everybody there was very focused on the training." Now with over 25 years of experience, he is ASE Certified as a Master Automobile Technician and Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, and holds additional industry certifications as well.
Today, Gilles oversees a staff of 12, including three JVS graduates, servicing residential customers and commercial truck fleets including Columbia Gas, Smith Dairy, Time Warner Cable, and All-Pro Freight.
"I put out fires," Gilles said. "When a truck breaks down on a highway and blocks traffic, we are under the gun to fix the problem; I do a little bit of everything."
"Mobile assistance is the key to Ray's success," Gilles said. "Being able to respond on location to assess and complete repairs is important to our customers."
"DOT (Department of Transportation) violations are very strict," he continued. "Now, more than ever, there is great responsibility for corporate fleets to maintain their vehicles. Coming to Ray's to service their trucks, backhoes, generators and trailers saves companies time and money."
"While the demand for automotive and truck technicians has increased, the number of students enrolling in these transportation-related programs has not," Gilles said.
"We've come out of the grease monkey era and technology is advancing so fast it's almost unreal," Gilles said. "Sure you still get your hands dirty, but it's more about troubleshooting and diagnosing software issues when those lights start flashing on your dashboard."
Gilles, along with other business and industry leaders serve on JVS Advisory Boards. These professionals meet several times throughout each school year to lend their expertise to a variety of topics including program curriculum and the purchase of technical equipment. "The overall goal is to help ensure that JVS students are competitive and trained to industry standards," affirmed Gilles.
"The JVS has extremely up-to-date equipment," Gilles continued. "But you can only pump so much information into a student in two years. The rest comes from learning on the job."
And Gilles practices what he preaches, providing students with internships, which often lead to full-time technician positions.
"I've hired about 15 to 20 JVS graduates over the years," said Gilles. "I like giving back to the school because JVS students are my future workforce."
"Our company is poised for growth, but just like our Ohio weather, technology is always changing," Gilles laughed. "We have to stay on top of things."