District 228 Partners With The CATA

District 228 Partners With The CATA
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, District 228 formed an important partnership with the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA). Our students are lucky and fortunate to be the first to get this experience. The pilot program will undoubtedly open many doors for our students interested in pursuing careers in the automobile service industry. In January, students toured dealerships and spoke with professionals in the field. One student even secured a job

Learn more from Jack Murray of The Daily Southtown:

Bremen High School District 228 automotive technology students spent a day in January visiting three local car dealerships to explore what it’s like to work in a service department.

To address another skilled labor shortage — in the service departments of new-car dealerships — Bremen High School District 228 has started a pilot program with the Chicago Automobile Trade Association to train auto service technicians.

Renee Mack, District 228’s career readiness coordinator, said trade association officials contacted her last September to explore a partnership to help member dealerships “fill jobs up and down 159th Street.”

“They knew we had a second-level automotive technology class,” she said. “The goal is to educate the kids, connect them to jobs and develop an apprenticeship program.”

By January, more than 20 auto-tech students toured Apple Chevrolet, Land Rover Orland Park and International Kia of Orland. All sit along a stretch of 159th Street known as Auto Row in Tinley Park and Orland Park.

Each dealership’s general manger or owner welcomed the pool of potential employees. They toured the showroom, lot and service department, met mechanics and learned about each dealership’s technician training process. Service managers discussed and demonstrated tools and equipment used for service and answered questions.

“We decided getting students out into the field to get real-world experience is what we wanted to do, to expand the kids’ classroom knowledge,” Mack said. “It was a great day for the kids to see everything and to talk to the technicians about their educational background.”

One student was so impressed he handed over his resume for a service job the next day and was hired.

“They hire our kids while they’re still going to school, working after school and on Saturdays,” said Mark Moberg, who teaches the advanced auto technology course at Tinley Park High School. The class draws students from all four district schools.

“Dealerships will hire them right from us because they want to train them themselves,” he said. Many start as porters.

“A local tire store has hired 10 of the kids over the years,” Moberg said. “They do brake jobs, tire service, oil changes. Some of my past students are changing engines; they’re real auto mechanics.”

Moberg’s students learn by doing in their automotive shop equipped with five hoists at Tinley Park High.

“We run the garage like a real auto shop and take in and service vehicles from people in the community, teachers and students — doing everything from basic maintenance, brake jobs, wheel bearings, oil changes, tune-ups and fix cars to pass emissions tests.”

Oscar Recio, of Posen, a student at Bremen High School, took a break from changing the oil on a Volkswagen Jetta. “I like everything hands-on — there’s not a lot of bookwork,” he said.

One of his toughest assignments was to remove and rebuild the damaged engine of a 2007 Chevy Suburban. But he most enjoys working during class on his own car, a 2007 Chrysler 300, to increase its performance.

“I was always into cars as a little kid with my dad working on his car in the garage,” Recio said.

Working part-time at a tire-service shop in Crestwood for seven months, Recio aims to open his own business, a tire and body shop, he said. “I love going to work and to do anything I can do to make a car faster, make it sound louder and make it sound meaner.”

For every five retiring automotive technicians, only one is replaced, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

“It’s a nationwide problem” to fill the demand, said Jennifer Morand, director of public relations and social media for the trade association.

Former trade association board member John Alfirevich, who owns Apple Chevrolet in Tinley Park, was an early and eager supporter of the partnership with District 228, Morand said. “He helped us get the pilot off the ground and has been a great sounding board.”

“Our goal is to hopefully connect students to dealerships and help them get jobs,” CATA Executive Vice President Chris Konecki said.

More than 400 new-car dealers in the Chicago metro region, including Northwest Indiana belong to the trade association.

“Our members are always looking for technicians,” Konecki said. “There’s a real need because mechanics are aging, and technology is more advanced. For kids in high school, that’s a second language for them. A younger workforce makes sense.

“And Tinley Park High School is minutes away from the many dealerships in Tinley Park and Orland Park.”

CATA plans to work with officials in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to extend the apprenticeship program across the state, Konecki said. “They are interested in high-paying jobs for graduates coming out of high school.”

“With 400 new-car dealers, hundreds of students, schools and dealerships we’ll hopefully be able to benefit from this program once it is fully launched,” Konecki added. “Candidates for these jobs are in high demand and will be for years to come.”
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