RecognitionDec 29th, 2023

Talent into Automotive: How JM Family is Investing in Early Talent


Dealer Marketing Magazine is honoring the people and companies in the automotive industry that actively work to drive talent into automotive. Investing in the future talent of the automotive industry is how we create sustainable, industry-wide growth.

In our first ever feature story for Talent into Auto, we are recognizing JM Family Enterprises.

A Brief History

“You have to know the past to understand the present”, Carl Sagan.

It’s October 26th,1968. Jim Moran has just signed the first distributor agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation in Tokyo, Japan.

This agreement would introduce Toyota vehicles to the United States for the first time.

Southeast Toyota Distributors (SET) begins serving 42 dealerships across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. By 1969, they become the “first company in the automotive industry to computerize inventory control and report sales through a state-of-the-art Teletype 33 ASR.”

Decades of expansion and innovation would follow.

Talent is the Differentiator

When you realize talent is the differentiator in a competitive market, the value of having a dedicated talent team to deploy a focused talent program becomes clear.

Talent acquisition is all about relationships, says Ali LeMaster, Director of Talent Acquisition. “We support the entire enterprise and so it's really about understanding the business. What are their goals? What are they trying to achieve? How can we partner with them? How can we look at processes to make our candidate experiences better? We have customers in the business, we also have customers as candidates.”

In Pursuit of Talent: The Value of Talent Pipeline Strategy

Ali and her team run an internship program at JM Family. It is projected that they will welcome more than 100 interns in 2024. Since 2016 JM Family has hired 452 interns, with 62 prior interns hired into permanent associate positions.

“The internship program gives us a really unique way to engage early talent, and it's been an area where we continue to grow and invest each year. Not only do we find future talent for the company, but our interns have been such a great source of innovation and inspiration.”

The 10 week program allows interns to participate in activities outside of their department and includes mentorship opportunities, networking, interacting with business leaders across the enterprise and participating in tours and philanthropy. The internship also provides the participants with the opportunity to take part in workshops designed to assist them with building their own personal brand and learn skills such as resume building, networking and how to build effective relationships within an organization.

Enhancing the Employee Experience

“I look forward to the new class every summer,” Aileen Van Pelt, Communications & Engagement Manager at Southeast Toyota Distributors explains. The experience of introducing young talent to the workplace impacts everyone working at JM Family. “Having them on campus and at our various locations, the energy and the enthusiasm is so contagious.”

The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) goes beyond the monetary value that the employee derives. It extends to include the employee experience. Aspects of employment like opportunities to work cross-functionally, and the learning potential within the workplace environment, have a direct impact on the total value that an employee derives from work. This means that successfully incorporating an internship program to attract new talent to an organization, also positively impacts employee retention.

"Interns are very enthusiastic,” says Vijay Thumma, Director of Development, Security and Operations for JM Family. “The internship program creates a lot of positivity and enhances team dynamics. They are not only motivating me, but the entire team as well.”

Work placement is a priority, and the program is dedicated to fully integrating the interns in day-to-day work. Aileen ensures that the interns within her department are included in the experience of visiting the distribution centers in order to understand “how we connected the dots in terms of vehicles and parts and what we do here at our corporate office in Deerfield.” In Vijay’s team, interns are exposed to a lot of work that is associated with the software development lifecycle. Ranging from secure code development to infrastructure automation and security monitoring, “interns not only gain exposure to the current secure coding practices, but also be able to really scale it up for the organization overall.”

When it comes to hiring interns, “it’s no different from when hiring a full time associate,” says Chris Bluem, Director of Strategy at Southeast Toyota Distributors. “Fit is absolutely critical to running a successful program. Our work changes day to day and regularly. We also have a small team, so ultimately you want to find an intern that will fit and thrive in that environment.” Chris is also an advocate of student talent and works to foster partnerships with Universities and Colleges. “Our goal is to create a pipeline of great talent, and ultimately, universities and organizations allow us to do that. Working on developing those key partnerships where the organization is aligned with our business and our talent needs helps us gain access to top talent.”

JM Family and Southeast Toyota Distributors have an internal people strategy team. With one of those sub-teams focused on the recruiting sector, “it has helped drive awareness within the organization to get out there and support our talent acquisition team. Building these key partnerships and building brand awareness within the student population so that they know we have these opportunities,” says Chris. 

We have a shared mission, as an industry, to tell our story and to share the value proposition of automotive with early talent. We all have the responsibility to pay it forward to the industry in which we thrive and to lay the foundation for the future innovators of automotive. 

Thank you to JM Family Enterprises for the opportunity to share this story.  

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