Charles Forsythe has always possessed a particular skill that set him apart from other mechanics in the Jamaican automotive industry. Aside from his genuine love of cars, the 41-year-old, who is regarded as one of the best auto-technicians in the business, also has a background as a competent and certified electrician.
He believes that this skill is what has allowed him to excel in the industry and become Shop Team Leader at the Balmoral Avenue service centre for Magna Motors, local dealers for Hyundai.
“I always say: ‘It’s easy for an electrician to become a mechanic, but it’s harder for a mechanic to become an electrician’. Since I started out as an electrician, my thinking is very different from that of a mechanic,” said Forsythe. “A mechanic’s process is more procedural where you test things over and over, but an electrician’s is based more in thinking and problem-solving.”
Today, the Bog Walk, St. Catherine native, exercises his supervisory role to a team of four as he liaises with the automobile company’s technical teams in Korea, India and the United States to resolve customer issues and provide first-class vehicle service.
As a teen growing up with both parents in a strict Christian household, Forsythe was always fascinated with radios, Walkmans and other small electronics while attending St. Mary's College, in Above Rocks. There, faced with the choice in specializing in woodwork or the electrical field, he chose the latter and learned the science of how electronics operate and are built.
Forsythe’s first experience with cars came from a chance phone interaction soon after coming to Kingston at the age of 18 for a stint doing minor home installations and phone repairs. While idly browsing through a directory, he came across a listing for local business AR Bewly Electrical and called to inquire about a position.
“They let me know they didn’t do home electrical work there; it was cars they worked on and they weren’t looking for anybody at the time. The person said ‘if you want to come and learn about car electronics, no problem’. Coincidentally, he had the same last name as me, which I didn’t know before I called, so that’s why he decided to give me a chance and take me on as an apprentice.”
Thereafter, Forsythe continued in auto electronics working on radios, air conditioners and lights in car sales while enrolling in the four-year programme at the Jamaica German Automotive School to learn about mechanics. Since graduating, he served as a mechanic at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company before moving on as a well-rounded technician in the industry.
Not Just a ‘Mechanic’
As one of the most-awarded international car brands in recent years, Hyundai has earned numerous awards and accolades from renowned vehicle-safety rating groups and consumer reports for their new models. In upholding these standards, Hyundai’s Service Manager Mark Raynor explained that the company has moved away from the stereotype of what a mechanic used to be and now hires experienced auto-technicians. He said, “This means they are supposed to be working on the car from all aspects – mechanical, electrical, the works. They are multi-skilled and multi-faceted; not just a ‘mechanic’. We look for persons like that, so we can train and groom them.”
To this end, Hyundai has helped upcoming technicians like Forsythe craft skill-based careers and frequently affords them opportunities to score their potential with high-level training. To date, Forsythe, a single father, has received training through the company in Trinidad and Miami while he holds Levels One and Two certifications in Automotive Repairs. Forsythe admits, “I was a bit nervous since it was my first time travelling overseas and you don’t know what to expect. But I felt proud to know that I got to that height in my career and in life. It was exciting.”
Raynor added, “It’s important for Hyundai to invest in and develop the skills of our staff. If you’re not investing in training, you’re not looking forward; and the more you know the product, the better you can deal with it. Our technicians know it like the back of their palm. This makes our operations more efficient, which goes a long way with customer satisfaction.”
Hailing from a family of tradesmen with his mother as a dressmaker and his father as a handyman, Forsythe advises young people who are interested in what he believes is a profitable trade to ensure that they have a genuine love for the field. “Next, start with automotive schooling and focus on the electrical aspect. It doesn’t matter if it’s cars you’re getting into because most vehicles are going electrical now, so being educated that way is a plus,” he said. “Then, with the experience behind it, you can’t lose.”
He also expressed confidence in the skill-based field with car-manufacturing rates continuously on the rise and new technologies being introduced with each production. “People will be driving cars for years to come. And if not cars, you still have trains and planes. They’re all the same, so once you’re in the automotive field, you can go a long way.”
A typical day for Forsythe includes issuing jobs to staff and ensuring their timely completion. “Regular wear-and-tear is what we handle mostly as major repairs only apply to the older models. We service over 20 cars a day.”
Forsythe, who previously specialized in brands such as BMW, Audi and Volkswagen, has received Hyundai’s People’s Choice and Excellence Attendance awards during his three-year tenure. He said, “I know that my work ethic is always to standard. I don’t procrastinate and I just work and make sure things are properly done.”
Attesting to this, Parts Warehouse Supervisor at Hyundai Jamaica Andre Higgins, said, “Charles knows what he’s doing and he knows how to get the job done. It’s pretty good working with him. In terms of work ethic, particularly his friendliness and sense of urgency with the customers, we look up to him.”
An avid lover of football, Forsythe hopes to excel even further and become a manager someday. “I’m very proud of my accomplishments. I was here since the Magna Motors Dealers assumed the Hyundai dealership in Jamaica and that’s now part of my legacy to be able to say that. Their faith in me also means I’m doing something good, and I’m proud of that.”