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South Valley Journal

Local auto technician wins prestigious national award

Oct 10, 2019 10:11AM ● By Josh Wood

Jake Sorensen at McNeil’s Auto Care. (Joshua Wood/City Journals)

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

A local auto technician is getting national attention for his work. Jake Sorensen of McNeil’s Auto Care has recently received a prestigious award for auto technicians and will travel to Arizona this fall for the award presentation.

“I knew I was nominated, but honestly with it being a national award, I didn’t think much of it,” Sorensen said. “I thought there’s a lot of techs out there and the chances of me making it very far are pretty slim. When I got the phone call, I was pretty surprised.”

Master auto technicians from any NAPA-affiliated location can be nominated for the prestigious NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year Award. Finalists from 52 regional groups across the country are selected to advance in the national selection process before the ultimate award recipient is chosen by NAPA Auto Parts, NAPA AutoCare and the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

“He’s the youngest to ever win the award,” said Pete McNeil, owner of McNeil’s Auto Care. At just 31 years old, Sorensen likely is the youngest ever to receive the award, though records can be unclear. He was called in late 2018 by then-NAPA president Dan Askey, who told Sorensen he had won.

“He said I was the youngest winner he ever heard of and he was at NAPA for I think it was just shy of 40 years,” Sorensen said. “To his knowledge I was the youngest one to win it.”

Nominees must achieve the status of master technician, which requires at least eight ASE certifications. Sorensen holds 14 ASE certifications and another 15 training qualifications, according to NAPA/ASE.

Sorensen, a resident of West Jordan, got an early start to his career. When he was just 15, he began fixing up cars for sale in auctions. He got his first job in an auto shop when he was 17 and became a master technician at just 19 years old. Shortly after that, he started work at McNeil’s, which has locations in Sandy and Riverton.

“At first it was just something that I could do and could make money at it,” Sorensen said. “I moved out young and needed money to support myself. Then I started to actually build a passion for what I’m doing.”

Sorensen takes a cerebral approach to his work. While a lot of technicians enjoy working on fast cars and old cars, Sorensen likes the diagnostic part of auto repair. “I like figuring out what’s wrong with these cars, especially modern cars with all the modules and computers that they have in there,” he said. “That’s really reenergized me. It’s pretty rewarding when you figure something out.”

Sorensen has become a resource for McNeil’s Auto Care and the other techs. If a car comes in that looks like it might be a little more difficult, they tend to give it to him. They even send him tough cases from their other location in Riverton.

A lot of those difficult-to-diagnose repairs involve things that Sorensen enjoys, like electrical issues or problems with a car’s computer modules. “Your average car has 20-plus modules or computers and they all communicate with each other on a network,” Sorensen said. “A lot of people don’t understand how that network works or interacts or how to diagnose problems with that, so I’ll get a lot of those.”

Sorensen will travel to Arizona to receive his NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year Award. He recently found out that he has won another national award from an automotive magazine and will travel to Minnesota for that award ceremony this fall as well. 

With so many accomplishments at such a young age, Sorensen has his sights on other things he would like to do in the future. “I really like teaching, and I’ve been teaching at the adult high school down the street at the Canyons Tech Center,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed that and I want to do something more in-depth there.”

He would also like to do more auto technician training and share his experience with diagnosis. “I’ve been doing some of that here,” he said. “I like to do classes about electrical and kind of start with the basics and help them understand how they can figure these things out and learn that stuff themselves.”