Local Chrysler dealer offers employees free online college

Brian Dennis, owner of Eastchester Chrysler Jeep Dodge, is participating in the Degrees@Work program.
Photo courtesy of Eastchester Chrysler Jeep Dodge

A local automobile dealer is helping its employees succeed by providing free, online college education.

Eastchester Chrysler Jeep Dodge on Boston Road, along with its sister dealership in Riverdale, is participating in a new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles program called Degrees@Work.

The initiative provides employees with the opportunity to attend Strayer University, an online college, free-of-charge.

The program began at the dealership in November 2015, said dealership owner Brian Dennis, who added that he has been excited about the results of the program so far.

“I think it’s very important to offer people, especially in our Bronx community, a leg-up in life,” said Dennis, who added that he was proud to give back through a supportive workplace where people pursue their educational goals without incurring student loan debt.

All tuition, fees, and books are covered and employees in good standing can take courses towards their associates, bachelors or masters degrees, on their own time, according to Eastchester.

Fiat Chrysler started the Degrees@Work program as an employee retention tool for dealers, said Dennis.

“The genesis of the program was to try to retain employees,” he said. “We have a high turnover of employees in certain areas; we have needs for skilled employees that…we are having challenges attracting.”

Dennis said he believes that Degrees@Work can be mutually beneficial to both his dealership and the employees, and can help employees have the opportunity to advance to higher paying jobs at the dealership.

“I was even thinking of taking one (course) myself,” said the owner. “I heard they are pretty challenging.”

Alan Katz, Dennis’ human resources director, said that initial feedback since the program launch is upbeat.

“It has been extremely positive for our employees that have expressed interest and that are actually enrolled because it is helping them achieve a dream of a post-high school degree,” said Katz, adding this gives staff members an opportunity to earn a debt-free degree.

Katz is enrolled himself at Strayer, and said he plans on taking a course a semester towards a masters degree in human resources, one of 40 areas of study offered.

“This program for me is a convenience,” said Katz, who said that he took out loans for his undergraduate education and is pleased to earn a degree on his own time while holding down a full-time job.

Eastchester Chrysler employee Lesa Castro, an administrative assistant who is taking coursework towards an associates degree in Business Administration, said that the program provides flexibility in achieving her educational goals.

She is a parent as well as a full-time employee, and can complete coursework while looking after her child, she said.

The owner, Dennis, indicated that Eastchester’s use of this program is part of a general strategy to attract local and develop local talent and he hinted that the program might even expand in six months or later to employees’ families.

To learn more about Eastchester Chrysler Jeep Dodge, visit eastchesterchryslerjeepdodgeram.com.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com.

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