CTEC Auto Class Aims to Fill Jobs – Shelby County Reporter

CTEC Automotive Class Aims to Fill Jobs

Posted 9:49 am on Monday, September 26, 2022

By SASHA JOHNS | Special for the journalist

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

With 11 different technical courses for juniors and seniors to learn and gain experience, CTEC has given hundreds of children an alternative path to success each year. This is especially true in Professor Robert Irwin’s automotive technology course.

This year, his program saw 14 returning students who 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 about safety, tires and wheels, vehicle inspection and maintenance, brakes, steering and suspension and transmission just in the first year,” Irwin said.

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

All students have the opportunity to earn Automotive Service Excellence certification before entering the workforce, and this nationally recognized certification sets them apart as job candidates.

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

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

Irwin said 40% of his students end up staying in the industry. Students receive 75% practical work and 25% theory in class. It also steers kids into small engine work so they can find jobs in other areas of the field as well. For example, he partners with Thompson Caterpillar in December for a special course in his class.

“There are so many directions they can take with this course,” Irwin said. “From learning how to use and work on forklifts to working as automotive technicians, they’re learning skills critical to the industry, and it’s an industry that’s hurting workers right now.” So they are on a solid career path with this program.

Some of his students even leave with the diplomas they need to start with an annual salary of 50,000 right out of high school.

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

“They’re proud of what they do when they wear these shirts to class,” Irwin said.

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

To learn more about CETC’s program for juniors and seniors in the Shelby County school system, check with your school administration and visit the Shelby County Technical Career Center Facebook page. CETC.

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