Thomas Pugsley is in many ways an average teenager. The 16-year-old high school student has a part-time job, plays sports and enjoys hanging out with his friends.
That job, however, is by no means average. Pugsley works as a technology assistant at a Ford car dealership in Quincy, Massachusetts — the Boston suburb where he lives. His job: to help new customers — most three to four times his age — navigate the often dizzying array of tech features in their new vehicles.
Whether it's using the car's GPS system to locate the cheapest fuel prices in the area, or finding movie listings at the local cinema, or even changing the lighting in the vehicle's interior to suit a driver's mood, Pugsley is a one-stop-shop for all his clients' questions.
He is one of seven — all teenagers — on the dealership's model technology team. Each group member undergoes Ford's extensive training program, but all already possess one key quality. They've been using technology for their entire lives.
Daniel Quirk, the dealership's owner, started the model technology team program a few years ago to free up his salespeople, whom he says would get bogged down with customer's questions on each car's features and lose crucial time on the sales floor.
He says the program — which requires that each teen work between 15-25 hours per week at 11 dollars an hour — has been a win-win for his business while providing valuable work experience for the teenagers.
For Pugsley, who says he'd likely be bagging groceries if it were not for the program, the opportunity to interact with customers doing what he loves has also furthered his own career aspirations.
He plans to major in business at college and go on to enter the business technology field, goals that he says have become more attainable with the experience gained at the model technology program.
"This is a great job just to get started," Pugsley told NBC News. "It's great to put on your resume."
When Doreen Hayward purchased a new Ford Escape last month, she said she was "a nervous wreck" about the car's tech features. That is until Ryan Cox — another model tech team member — taught her how to use them all. He showed Hayward where she could connect her cell phone to listen to music, operate the car's voice recognition system and lock the car using a exterior touch-screen keypad.
"Wow," Hayward said in one exchange.
The irony was not lost on Hayward. Cox is just 15 years old and does not yet even have a driver's license. Hayward said Cox's youth gave her confidence.
"They're so tech-savvy," Hayward said of the tech team. "And I think it's a wonderful thing that these kids are here to help."