“It’s really important that teenagers see tangible evidence of why we are asking you to do certain things over these 1400 or so days that constitute high school,” said Superintendent McCandless. “And when we have the tangible evidence of having a local Toyota dealer who is offering potential employment locally and also the promise of potential employment across the county, it is a no-brainer for us.”
Being in a certified program also brings pride to the student and means he or she is more likely to graduate.
“When I walk in and see the kids in the program, they shake my hand. They’re excited. Their chests are puffed out with pride. They are somebody. They are not just a vocational student. They are on a path,” said George Haddad. “I think we are going to funnel kids to car dealership automotive instead of the backyard automotive they might have been before. It’s a great career in which a high school graduate can make a lot of money. My highest paid guys make well over $100,000 a year.”
“I’ve been watching for 15 to 20 years as high schools tell everyone that they have to go to college to have hope. It simply is not true. Some families are not in the position to absorb the debt that college is likely to incur. This can be a path to a great career,” said Dr. McCandless.
Toyota donated access to Toyota’s interactive e-learning modules and trained the Pittsfield Taconic High School instructors on the training methodologies used by Toyota. Toyota also donated two new Camry engines so that the students can work on modern cars that incorporate the latest technology found in Toyota products and the e-learning modules.
Students, with the permission of their parents, will also visit the Toyota training site in Mansfield, Massachusetts where Haddad’s techs go for training. They will meet with Toyota executives and see what training is in a Toyota facility. They will get some training that day as well.
“Our lone concern with this was what would the car dealerships of other brands say. We organized a meeting with them early in the process. They said, hey, we’re thrilled. We need trained mechanics, too,” said Dr. McCandless.
The Pittsfield program will now serve as a pilot, which is being watched closely by Toyota’s USA headquarters.
“Eventually, this will go nationwide,” said David Fontanella, customer services operations manager for the Toyota Boston region. “But the innovation came from Pittsfield.”
Superintendent McCandless believes that this can also be a pilot for other partnerships with private companies to deliver a trained workforce that meets their needs. He called it a “win-win” for business and the students.
“We would love to see this happen with every single vocational shop we operate. We would love somebody in the community to step in and step up to say I want you students to know that I am in word and deed supporting the work that you are doing for my own good but, more importantly, for your own good,” said Dr. McCandless.
– by Roger Matus