Car dealers, automotive educators and school educators joined hands recently to drive home the message that there are many jobs in the auto industry.
The automotive technology academy is a four-year training program in the automotive field offered by the Freehold Regional High School District at Manal-apan High School. The program is open to any student who attends one of the district’s six schools.
"Manalapan High School is really proud to sponsor its second annual automotive technology and auto show," said Principal Terri Grey. "It gives us the opportunity to have the students talk about their programs and share what the automotive academy is about, and to have some of the partners we work with also have the opportunity to come out to explain to the entire community what our training program does here.
"There are courses in electrical systems, braking systems, safety, leadership, careers and entrepreneurship," Grey said. "There’s hands-on problem solving, critical thinking skills, ethics and teamwork. All are involved in the instructional program."
The program "can take you to a four-year or two-year college with many avenues and adventures in life," she told the attendees.
Lucille Jones, supervisor of Life Science/Technology and Applied Technology, said the career night was designed to increase the awareness and understanding of the automotive industry.
"This is not about changing oil and tires," Jones said. "Today’s automotive technology is about on-board computers, oxygen sensors, electric ignitions encrypted with codes and electronically controlled transmissions."
Grey said credit is due to teacher Steve Halas, who originated the program and has taken it through the Automotive Youth Educational System (AYES) certification.
"We’re one of a few schools in the entire state which has acquired this type of certification," said Grey. "We owe a great deal to Steve Halas, whose heart and soul supports this program."
"AYES is a high level program which requires a great deal of training and preparation," the principal said. "Once a student is involved in this type of program it becomes a positive step in moving on to the next level, a junior college or the four-year college level. There is technology and a high level of instruction involved. It’s state-of-the-art."
Bill Marter, service manager at Freehold Pontiac Buick GMC, participated in the career night. Marter, who graduated from Manalapan, said that while some people may think the students in the program will become "grease monkeys," in reality, the students are taught that they can make a good living in the automotive business.
"There are auto technicians, service writers, managers, all kinds of programs going on," said Marter. "There are a lot of local dealerships involved in the program, Freehold Nissan, Freehold Toyota and Freehold Pontiac Buick GMC."
Irwin Lincoln-Mercury, Freehold Ford, Freehold Mitsubishi and New Jersey Car, a supporter of the auto industry, are also involved in the program.
"We do a lot of our recruiting from Brookdale Community College," said John Kirsch, service manager at Freehold Toyota. "We take them in under our wing and start them off as a express lube technicians and they work their way up the line."
John Calabretta, educational representative, Universal Technical Institute, Cranford, said his school does training for Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, Jaguar and International trucks.
Lee Blaustein, program administrator, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, said, "We have General Motors, Toyota, Lexus and now the Volvo program, and a management program for STS Tire."
Blaustein said there are, on average, 140 students per year.
"We select 25 for the GM program, 22 for the Toyota program and about 13 for the Volvo program," Blaustein said. "These are all degree programs, two years, full time. Brookdale also has an internship program. For the past four years every one of our graduates [has been] employed before graduation."
Blaustein noted that Brookdale has an arrangement with the University of Pennsylvania that allows two-year graduates to go in as juniors and complete a bachelor’s degree in automotive management. There are similar agreements with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Kean University in engineering in the automotive field.
John Thompson, shop foreman, Campbell Supply Co. Inc., South Plainfield, said his firm is looking for technicians to service and maintain the fire trucks his company sells.
Paul Bailey, representing Raceway Park, Old Bridge, said there are jobs in the motor sports and racing markets. He said the best automotive racing mechanics come from car dealerships.