Marysville school officials and students, as well as members of the area business community are shown during a recent open house at the autotech lab of the Marysville Early College High School. The autotech program is the first at the district which will serve students from both Marysville high schools. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
As a junior at Marysville High School, Caleb Erwin was pretty much undecided about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life until a new program ignited a passion.
Erwin was in the first class of students to take part in the autotech pathway at the Marysville Early College High School (ECHS). He had a brother in the field already and knew there were plenty of job available.
“They (school officials) came up with the idea and I went for it,” Erwin said.
Erwin was only part of the program for one year and jumped onboard before it even had dedicated lab space, as instructors used available spots in the robotics lab for some hands-on lessons.
Despite the fledgling nature of the program, Erwin was able to secure a job in the maintenance department of a local dealership when he graduated in the spring.
That is exactly the outcome instructor Rob Heinze is aiming for.
“My goal is to make them employable,” Heinze said.
Heinze, who works at ECHS through a partnership with Hi-Point Career Center, said making students job-ready, entails more than filling them with automotive knowledge. Helping students become responsible and accountable is just as important as knowledge, Heinze said.
As the program enters its second year with a brand new auto lab, complete with vehicle lifts and state of the art equipment, Heinze feels it is important for students to find the segment of automotive services that appeals to them.
The first thing students in the program do is complete a research project on a specific job that interests them. Heinze said this get the students to dig into the various automotive careers so they can see what’s out there.
“My objective is to guide kids where they best fit,” Heinze said.
In the program, students will prepare themselves for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, which distinguishes competent technicians. Certifications can come in many specialties such as suspension and steering, brakes and electrical systems.
While students can take the ASE written tests, part of the certification process involves two years of on-the-job experience. Heinze said the lab work could qualify for a year of the experience, but students will need to get out into the workforce to complete the certification requirements.
The program already has 60 students participating, with capacity of 120, according to ECHS principal Ken Chaffin.
He said the first batch of students in the pathway developed organically, from references by guidance counselors or word of mouth. With the new lab facility in place and graduates finding jobs, he believe the program will “sell itself” in the coming years.
A highlight of the program is that it is the first pathway open to students in both the traditional high school and ECHS. Previously, pathways, such as health sciences, engineering or turf management, served students in one building or the other.
For autotech, students, generally juniors or seniors, from either the high school or ECHS take instruction for a half day in the program, using the rest of the day for traditional graduation requirements. Though it is the first pathway that is open to both student bodies, Chaffin hopes it won’t be the last.
“We want to see the shared opportunities grow,” he said.
Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins said eventually night training programs for adults could be developed to utilize the lab space as well.
Hi-Point currently offers an automotive academy which is similar to the new program, but Mankins said the goal was to provide similar training in-house. She said Marysville has had more success getting students involved in career training with satellite programs hosted locally, rather than at Hi-Point’s campus in Bellefontaine.
Chaffin said he even sees a synergy between the autotech program and the IT pathway offered at ECHS. He said in the future the two pathways could be blended as automated, computer assisted driving technology develops.
He said local students could possess skills perfectly tailored to what Honda of America sees as a carbon-free, collision-free automotive future.
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