Merchant helps student learn on the job |

Merchant helps student learn on the job

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Luke Miller said he had been looking for an internship to help spark an interest in auto mechanics, something which he was eventually able to find at Nugget Auto Body in Grass Valley.

And now, having been given that opportunity, Miller has himself a job.

Miller, a Bitney College Prep student, was looking into an ROP school-to-career training program, when he eventually connected with Chris Hensley at Nugget Auto Body.

“It’s been huge,” Miller said. “I was looking into ROP and I wanted to do either some sort
of mechanics or auto body,” Miller said.

“I thought about maybe looking into an auto-body shop and we had a friend that knew Chris and I thought I’d give it a try and it’s great.”

Through working with Nugget Auto Body’s Chris Hensley, Miller said he has learned helpful techniques, including working with Bondo, a putty used to repair dents, and has learned to work on his own bicycle.

“I’m building a custom bicycle and he’s been helping me … so I can use techniques I learned on that,” Miller said. “I’ve helped a lot with organizing the shop and that’s basically all I’ve done so far.

“It’s been a very positive thing.”

Miller said the shop has given him something to look forward to, as school is not his most enjoyed part of life.

“It’s motivated me to start to bring up my grades so I’ve been working on that,” Miller said.

Miller was working for three weeks as an intern until asking Hensley for a paid position, to which Hensley agreed — to Miller’s delight.

“I felt extremely excited,” Miller said.

Hensley said he appreciated Miller’s enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

“We’re always looking for a smart, energetic young person that has interest in something along this field and they’ve actually been pretty rare and hard to come by,” Hensley said. “He has probably been the first kid to come by that had any real interest in years, in maybe 10 years or so.

“It’s been working out really great, because there’s a lot of people retiring out of this industry and not enough younger people coming up to do this trade; and so I’m always looking for somebody to have any interest in that wants to do this sort of work.”

Hensley said accepting Miller as a paid employee was a no-brainer.

“He expressed interest and was doing such a good job that I said absolutely,” Hensley said. “He does everything he’s capable of, anything from taking cars apart to putting them back together to general shop cleanup.

“We’ve had him mixing paint and a little bit of everything, sanding cars and things like that.”

Hensley said Miller has been productive and an asset, something he hasn’t always seen in previous interns.

“Luke is very talented and creative and he’s a fairly good self-starter, so we don’t have to invest a lot of time to get him to start doing things,” Hensley said. “We pretty much just show him what he needs to do.”

Miller’s mother, Tammy, said she tried to find an apprenticeship for her son, to no avail, until Hensley took him on.

“I couldn’t get anybody that was willing to do it,” she said. “Luke ended up going in and talking to the owner of Nugget Auto Body and Luke just loved it.

“He improved his grades because he had to have better grades to keep his work permit; and he said he was going to ask for a job and Chris said absolutely.”

Tammy said she feels like in a difficult economy, Hensley’s generosity is even more pronounced.

“I can’t even imagine at a time when people are so tight, that he would be willing to take my son on not only as a mentor, but on a financial level. And it completely changes how Luke looks at school and his future,” Tammy said.

“It’s worth letting other businesses know that it’s a great way to give to the community.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call (530) 477-4230.

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