Co-op Student of the Year driven to learn new skills
June 7, 2022
One day you might spot Spencer Walton driving through the streets of his hometown of Kincardine in his dream car.
“It’s called the Lexus LC 500. It’s a two-door grand touring car with a big V8 engine in it. It’s a bit heavy, but it’s one of the best driving cars on the market,” he says.
“Ever since I was a kid, I would look at cars. I’d have books and magazines of cars. When we were on road trips when I was seven or eight years old, I’d spot cars and tell my parents what they were.
‘My love of cars never left me – it only grew.’
So, it’s no surprise Spencer wound up in the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College, studying in the Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (Automotive Management) program.
Now in his fourth study term, with two co-op terms under his belt, he was named the 2022 Co-op Student of the Year.
We spoke with Spencer about his co-op experiences and what he gained from his hands-on learning.
How does it feel to be named Co-op Student of the Year?
It came as quite a surprise. It was like “Oh my gosh, no way!” I was just doing honest work that I was so motivated about, and I’ve been rewarded for that. It’s awesome.
What tasks or projects did you work on during your co-op?
Both of my co-op terms were at Lakeside Chevrolet Buick GMC in Kincardine.
I got a very good understanding of how sales, operations and the work environment work, how staff communicate, and I learned a lot of dealership terminology.
Along with getting my Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) certification and learning about how the sales system operates in an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) dealership, I took simple point-and-shoot videos because I said I wanted to learn how to market and expand our online network.
‘I really grew in the second co-op term’
Near the end of my term, I did some editing.
Then, in my second co-op term is really where I had the opportunity to create great content. I used Adobe software to create and edit videos for dealership walk-arounds.
I really grew in the second co-op term – expanding our social media platforms from just Facebook, to Instagram, YouTube and TikTok as well.
What did you like best about your co-ops?
My favorite thing was product knowledge and talking with customers. So, if a customer wanted to know something about the vehicle, I was very enthusiastic about it and would tell them what they needed to know. I really learned how to contain my excitement and just talk to my customers comfortably.
What was the most challenging part of your co-op experience?
In my co-op terms, they gave me the opportunity to interact with customers and I was involved in various stages of lots of deals. I’d help sign papers and I’d show them around their vehicle once before they drove off the lot and talk about all the features.
I did a bunch of different things, but the hardest one was the beginning of a customer interaction when you first meet them.
That’s when they get their first impression of you, and you have to maintain their attention and their interest and have them like you within that first minute.
I had this mental snowball of, “What are they going to think if I mess up?”
Eventually I understood the customer is not here to judge you, they’re here for your service. You just have to be confident, so it took a while for me to get that confidence to really nail that interaction.
But I learned it quicker than I thought, and I got better at it and things went more smoothly as time passed and I kept doing it.
Why did you choose to study at Georgian?
This exact program, Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (Automotive Management). I’m pretty lucky. We have all these connections in the automotive industry around here. The automotive industry is huge in Ontario.
I went to one of Georgian’s open houses, went up to the automotive business area, and I said, “This is exactly what I want.” And you know, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. No regrets.
What skills and knowledge from your Georgian program did you apply on the job?
One of them was the Dealership Management Systems course I took, which taught me how to navigate those systems and programs that dealerships use to operate.
That really helped me because I was already familiar with the operating systems when I got there.
‘It was a pretty smooth transition’
I also took a salesperson course, which taught me a lot on how to operate as a salesperson and gave me a better understanding of how to operate in the dealership.
So when I got there, it was a pretty smooth transition.
I also learned from my peers at school, too, because we always talk about automotive news, so I was up to date with trends and the latest news.
What did you learn on co-op you can’t learn in the classroom?
Being able to talk to people face to face was the biggest thing. The co-op really trained me how to communicate with customers in a sales position in a dealership, and that experience is invaluable. That’s what you need as an automotive student.
‘That experience is invaluable. That’s what you need as an automotive student.’Spencer Walton
I would also do a bunch of odd jobs around the dealership, such as detailing cars, driving customer shuttles, and taking trucks back and forth to an aftermarket place that added truck accessories as needed.
A few times I actually delivered vehicles to customers by myself. It was a blast.
Spencer ‘outstanding’ and ‘motivated,’ says supervisor
Spencer was an “outstanding” employee during his two co-ops at Lakeside Chevrolet Buick GMC in Kincardine, says Alecia Dunbar, Sales Manager.
“I’m super impressed with how far Spencer has come with his videos, sales communication, and customer service abilities,” she says. “Spencer’s drive to learn new skills to complement dealership marketing, and the increase of his abilities from when he started and where he ended up at the end of his term is worlds apart.“
Alecia describes Spencer as “an excited, motivated worker, eager to work and always willing to learn new skills.“
About the Co-op Student of the Year award
The Co-op Student of the Year award is a presented to a full-time student in a co-operative education program who has demonstrated remarkable achievements in academic and co-op terms.
Want to accelerate your success? Apply for a full-time program with co-op.
Read about past Co-op Student of the Year recipients
- Marine Technology – Navigation: Meet Daniel
- Bachelor of Business Administration (Management and Leadership): Meet Ronjay