CTEC automotive class aims to fill jobs

Published 9:49 am Monday, September 26, 2022

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By SASHA JOHNS | Special to the Reporter

COLUMBIANA – One by one, the Career Technical Educational Center (CTEC) in Columbiana is preparing Shelby County students to enter and fill the job market.

With 11 different tech courses for juniors and seniors to learn and gain experience, CTEC has given hundreds of kids each year an alternative path to success. This is especially true in teacher Robert Irwin’s auto tech class.

This year his program saw 14 returning students that are seniors, and he gained 28 new juniors from every high school in the Shelby County system except Vincent. Throughout the program, students learn the basics over two years which will prepare them for careers in their fields.

“They learn safety, tires and wheels, vehicle inspection and maintenance, brakes, steering and suspension, and driveline just the first year,” Irwin said.

Irwin said this knowledge helps many gain employment in entry-level positions in their first year of the program.

All students have the option to become Automotive Service Excellence certified before they go into the workforce, and this nationally recognized certification makes them stand out as candidates for jobs.

“They don’t just learn the skills to work on cars,” Irwin said, “they learn about work ethic too.”

Last year Irwin had six of his seniors attend Lawson State Community College where they’ll earn two-year associate degrees in tech training for companies like Toyota, GM and Ford. Several have gone on to work for dealerships over the years, and he has one student from Chelsea the was recently employed at the Calera Quick Lane.

Irwin said that 40 percent of his students end up staying in the industry. Students get 75 percent hands-on work and 25 percent classroom theory. He also steers kids toward small engine work so they can find jobs in other areas of the field as well. For instance, he’s partnering with Thompson Caterpillar in December for a special course in his class.

“There are so many directions they can go with this course,” Irwin said. “From learning how to operate and work on forklifts, to auto technician work, they learn skills essential to the industry, and it’s an industry that is hurting for workers right now. So, they are on a solid career path with this program.”

Some of his students even leave with the credentials they need to start at a 50k yearly salary right out of high school.

One of the things Irwin said he likes for his students to have when they start his program is uniform-style shirts that give them a sense of professionalism and belonging.

“They take pride in what they are doing when they have these shirts on in class,” Irwin said.

This year’s shirts were donated by Long-Lewis Ford and NAPA Auto Parts in Columbiana. Each business donated $600 to cover the cost of the needed 48 shirts.

To find out more about CTEC’s program for juniors and seniors in the Shelby County School System, check with your school administration and visit the CTEC Shelby County Career Technical Center page on Facebook.