From The Providence Journal
WARWICK, RI — Many high school seniors worry about what they will do after graduation. But thanks to a school program and a mentorship, Jason Marley, a senior at Warwick Veterans Memorial High in Rhode Island, already has a job.
Marley is one of 45 students in the Warwick Area Career & Technical Center’s automotive training program. This past summer, the 17-year-old student started working under a mentor at Bald Hill Subaru, repairing cars.
His performance in the school’s automotive program helped him get into Automotive Youth Educational Systems — the mentorship program, sponsored by the auto industry — providing hands-on experience, a job this summer, after-school employment and a guaranteed job after graduation. Marley also got his own set of tools from the mentorship program, worth about $3,000.
Each day, Marley and his classmates spend half their day in automotive classes, learning the intricate details of modern car maintenance and practicing what they learn on cars in the school’s shop. The other half of the day, the students return to their traditional high school classes.
“I don’t want to be sitting at a desk all day,” Marley says. “I’d rather be working with my hands.”
The Career & Technical Center was recently named the best high school automotive program in the country by an industry trade group.
The instruction time is split between theoretical classroom work and hands-on work in the shop, where in teams of two or three the classes work on 30 to 40 vehicles a week.
The program has a strong focus on preventive maintenance, so when the students were fixing a headlight on a car the other day, they also checked out several other systems and made sure to top off all of the vehicle’s fluids.
David Tibbetts, has been teaching one of the classes for eight years. Last year he decided to apply for the award from the Automotive Industry Planning Council (AIPC). Warwick came in fourth.
The council looks at a competing program’s previous three years and its graduates, Tibbetts said — and this year, Warwick came in first in the nation.
Besides the prestige, the center gets $12,000 for tools and equipment and cars donated by Honda and Daimler Chrysler for use in the shop.
Most of the students are training to get entry-level automotive technician jobs, Tibbbetts said. There is a shortage of qualified mechanics nationally, he said, and students often get jobs after school in local dealerships.
“A lot of them, instead of flipping burgers after school are working on cars, in dealerships,” he said.
Annual salaries start out in the mid-$20,000s, Tibbetts said, and within two years reach about $55,000.
“Receiving recognition of this sort is very gratifying for the staff at the career center,” its director, Joseph Crowley, said in a statement. “We know how well our graduates are prepared for real- world jobs. We know how well they are doing after they graduate and enter into well-paying jobs or postsecondary education. Having this validated by a national organization, such as AIPC, lets everyone else know.”
While the program helps many students get jobs, it is a good gateway to higher education for others.
For 17-year-old Patrick DeCourcy, a Vets student, it will help pay for college.
Last year, DeCourcy finished fourth in the state in an automotive competition, which helped earn him a partial scholarship to the University of Northwestern Ohio’s automotive program.
“I think the program is excellent,” he said. “I wasn’t one of those kids who was an A student all along. It gets me out of school for half a day doing something I love.”
DeCourcy said that one day he might open up his own business, working on custom cars. But for now, besides attending college next year, “who knows.”
Copyright 2004 The Providence Journal. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved .
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