At one time, a college education was considered the most direct path to personal and professional success. However, alternative avenues to career achievement are emerging across the country that will unlock new potential for our young people.
Thanks to rapid advancements in technology and an increasing focus on sustainability, we are seeing a growing need for skilled-trade professionals in sectors ranging from clean energy to transportation, but in many cases, the pipeline of available talent to take on these skilled roles is insufficient.
This is particularly true for the automotive service industry. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the U.S. requires approximately 76,000 new tire and automotive technicians each year to keep up with demand.
At a time when vehicles are evolving to become more sophisticated, electric and autonomous, technical schools and training programs are graduating less than half of the needed automotive service technicians annually.
Automotive technicians are critical to keeping people safe and our economy moving, which is why we must expand the opportunities for technical education, early and often. A critical component to creating these opportunities lies in high schools across the country – and right here in our own backyard.
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How Maplewood High School benefits from automotive program
In collaboration with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Bridgestone launched an Automotive Training Center at Maplewood High School in 2015.
Maplewood is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school that offers students unique vocational learning opportunities to help them experience the various career paths available to them.
Bridgestone has proudly supported the Maplewood automotive program for seven years, connecting students with company leaders for mentorship opportunities, funding technician certification, and even building a fully operational Firestone Complete Auto Care store onsite where students service vehicles and learn how to interact with customers.
The Maplewood Automotive program has graduated more than 130 students since it began seven years ago, helping address the critical need for automotive technicians in the area while also providing opportunities for young Nashvillians who likely wouldn’t otherwise have access to this type of training.
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Continue to inspire students to pursue their passions
Dozens of these program alumni have been able to supplement the skills learned in the program with real-world experience by working alongside dedicated automotive service professionals, eventually pursuing full-time careers at Bridgestone stores.
For the automotive industry, the Maplewood Automotive Program is just a drop in the bucket of the nearly 40,000 automotive technicians needed to fill the gap annually across the country.
Yet with each graduate we train, we expand the potential for other young people to recognize opportunity. Every single Maplewood graduate is a testament to the power and importance of practical, hands-on learning. Our hope is that each one is able to successfully pursue a career in the automotive industry, and if it’s with us, even better.
I encourage us all, from parents and family members to business and civic leaders, to continue to inspire, steward and educate those in our communities who are just starting to discover their passions. An investment in their future – perhaps even in automotive education – is an investment in our shared journey, for generations to come.
Marko Ibrahim is president of Bridgestone Retail Operations
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Investing in automotive education provides bright future for students