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Wilcox High School Students Test Drive a Career as an Automotive Technician

Jacob Dominguez, 16, is in Wilcox High School’s Automotive Service and Repair Program, a branch of the school’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) Department. During a recent visit to Frontier Ford, a Ford dealership in Santa Clara, Dominguez noted how the shop was split into sections with different teams, and that the employees here would help each other out when they could. Earlier this year, Ford and Wilcox High School partnered up through an initiative called Ford ACE (Automotive Career Exploration). Now students in Wilcox’s Automotive Service and Repair Program have access to a subset of Ford factory training through online training modules. In addition, these students have been visiting Frontier Ford to get a taste for the profession of an automotive technician.

“What I’ve learned through the Ford ACE program and through my visit there is that everything on a car now is going to be assisted by electronics and computers,” said Dominguez, who hopes to pursue a career in mechanical engineering someday. “Ford doesn’t think of mechanics as mechanics anymore — they’re referred to as technicians.”

According to Jozef Antolin, Wilcox’s Small Engines and Automotive Technology Instructor, Ford reached out to Wilcox High School for a partnership.

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“I think we started this in February or March of this year,” Antolin said. “In April and May, we have been sending four to six students at a time to do a dealership visit. They get a chance to interact with managers and service technicians and ask questions about the daily functions of each person’s position. Ford also provides a nice lunch for the students. We are planning on scheduling Ford technicians to come and do demonstrations and interact with our students in the fall semester.”

“My role is to work with our Ford dealerships and help them create relationships with automotive schools in the area,” said Juan Maldonado, Ford Motor Company’s Regional Technical Talent Placement Specialist. “The goal is that by supporting the local automotive school with resources and mentorship, it helps the dealership have another pipeline to recruit new talent.

“Wilcox High school gets access to a learning management system that offers them online web based training in areas such as engine performance, electrical and brakes and suspension,” continued Maldonado. “This is training that students get access to, the same training that our technicians working at a Ford dealership get access to. It gives these students a better advantage to get a full-time position as a technician at a Ford dealership someday.”

Gabriella Khanitsky, 17, has been in Wilcox’s Automotive Service and Repair Program since she was a freshman. Now a senior, Khanitsky plans to attend San Jose University. She aspires to be a mechanical engineer and would like to design cars and create engines for airplanes and cars that use clean energy resources. Her visit to Frontier Ford and her online training with Ford ACE has helped cultivate her interest in the automotive industry.

“It was interesting to see how a dealership operates,” Khanitsky said. “There is a service adviser who connects your case with a technician in the shop who makes the repair. Another thing about the field trip is that I learned about all the different careers in the automotive industry. In a dealership autoshop, it’s not as simple as a Jiffy Lube where they just do oil changes. At the Ford dealership I visited, there is a diverse array of jobs.

“In the Ford program, we do an online training,” Khanitsky continued. “The training teaches you a lot of things I’d learned in this automotive class, like preventative maintenance. But they go into more detail. The program teaches you stuff you can’t find on the Internet. So, the Ford program offers a good alternative to the textbook.”

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