Alpena’s auto tech gives kids life skills, a leg up on their careers
ALPENA — “We’re really just a stepping stone,” said Alpena High School teacher Mark Hay.
The teacher reflected on the school’s automotive technology program in his office, looking through a window at cars awaiting repair in the school’s auto shop.
That shop offers students the chance to learn the ins and outs of cars before they graduate high school and go into the real world.
“We really encourage our students that this is just the beginning,” Hay said. “If they want to be a technician, they will constantly need training. I really try to emphasize that.”
Students spend time in the auto shop working on cars, but they also spend time in the classroom, learning material. Hay believes the hands-on experiences reinforces what students learn during the lectures.
“They actually will do it,” he said.
Hillman High School senior Xavier Baker said one thing he’s learned is how to put tires on a car.
“It’s enjoyable,” Baker said. “It’s a lot better than telling us what to do and having us write out what we’re supposed to do, turn it in, and have it graded.”
The school makes available vehicles on which the students practice different car repairs, like changing oil, changing tires, and more. Vehicles were purchased through a state Marshall Plan for Talent grant Alpena Public Schools and surrounding districts received in December 2018.
“We’re actually using vehicles for training,” Hay said.
Alpena High senior Kyle Brown said he’s brought his own vehicle in to get work done, which included a new front end.
“You can pretty much do anything in here,” Brown said.
Students earn different certifications through the class, giving them an advantage when taking the next step in their career.
Every student is required to take a 10-hour safety course from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the beginning of the semester.
The National Coalition of Certification Centers certifies students in basic measurements, slide calibers, and other items.
“I’ve got quite a few who have finished their certification with that,” Hay said.
At the end of the year, if students do well enough in the program, Hay said, they take an Automotive Service Excellence student exam.
“They can get three different certifications coming out of the program if they apply themselves and do what they’re supposed to be doing,” Hay said.
“It really puts us ahead of the game,” Baker said.
Hay said students in the class used to rebuild engines or transmissions, but, because the auto industry has changed, students don’t do that, anymore.
“They’ll actually have an engine, but they’ll buy what’s called a crate engine, where it’s already all assembled and they just have to bolt it into a car,” Hay said. “The times of rebuilding stuff has kind of gone away.”
Working on cars helps students do stuff outside of the shop, so they know what they’re doing, Brown said.
“You can use it outside of school, too,” he said.
Baker said the class starts simple and gets more complex, just like anything else.
“This is a state-of-the-art shop, we have better things than most shops around town,” Brown said.
Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.