Hannaford Career Center works with local shops to train techs

MIDDLEBURY — On Mainelli Road, off Exchange Street, is the Hannaford Career Center’s North Campus, where three Automotive Technology programs are currently being offered. In years past, there were two offerings, but interest in the program is on the rise and administrators saw the need to add a third section this spring.
The Auto Tech curriculum provides opportunities for students to gain industry experience and earn recognized credentials. Coursework focuses on safety and preventative maintenance, the science of internal combustion engines, electronics and emissions, the science of ride and brake performance, and work-based learning at businesses in the community. By the end of this school year, nearly 60 students will have completed one or more Auto Tech programs.
A visit to North Campus makes it clear that this learning space is quite unlike traditional classrooms. Often the lobby is filled with customers waiting for service to be performed on their vehicle, from oil changes to tire mounts and balances, and Vermont state inspections. The equipment and shop spaces are top-of-the-line resources for students and the industry-recognized credentials they earn in the course of completing their programs prepare them for the working world with an impressive résumé that includes an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Student certification.
Looking to the future, students are exploring post-graduation opportunities like additional training, technical colleges and employment. This spring, auto students have been accepted at the Advanced Welding Institute in South Burlington, Lincoln Tech in Nashville, and WyoTech in Daytona. Frequent other post-graduation choices include the University of Northwestern Ohio and Vermont Technical College.
Even before graduation from the Auto Tech program, Career Center students get opportunities to talk with and, in some cases, job shadow at car care businesses like County Tire Center in Middlebury and Heritage Toyota in South Burlington.
Recently the Career Center Auto Tech students got visits from employees at Heritage Toyota, including the shop foreman and an Auto Tech program graduate now employed as a master technician, who demonstrated the usefulness of the training offered at the North Campus.
“Our partnership with the Career Center helps prepare students to enter the working world after graduation and helps us keep connected to a trained workforce,” said County Tire owners Steve and Lisa Dupoise. “A job-shadow here gets them started with the skills they will need for a career being an auto technician after graduation” or post-secondary and continuing education.
This year’s co-ops, arranged by North Campus building administrator Len Schmidt, see students getting on-the-job training at such places as County Tire, Pike Industries, Mountain View Equipment, Preston Farm and G Stone Motors.
“We’re trying to do what we can to develop these programs at the Career Center,” said Brian Goodro, regional service manager for Mountain View Equipment in Middlebury. “The future growth of our businesses relies on it.”
The Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics category is one of the Top 25 Occupations by Annual Openings, according to the Vermont Department of Labor Economic and Labor Market Information 2014-2024 Long Term Occupational Projections report (www.vtlmi.info/projlt.pdf). The same report lists this job category as having a median hourly wage of $17.38 (a gross annual salary of roughly $36,000) for individuals with an associate’s degree, postsecondary non-degree award, or some college.

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