From left: Cathi Webb, Walt Commans, and Margaret Ragan get together at the World of Speed Museum, which donated event space.Walt Commans served as moderator for the Industry-Education Roundtable.

Industry-Education Roundtable hailed as a success by attendees

Northwest professionals dial down into education concerns and needs for next-gen workforce

Wilsonville, Ore.-The first Industry-Education Roundtable in the Northwest was held April 27, at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville.

“Expect the unexpected,” said Walt Commans, ASE Education Founbdation manager, during opening comments as moderator. He later added, “What an exceptional turnout of industry and education partners exchanging ideas.”

More than 60 shop owners, high school and college automotive instructors, students, and other industry professionals from Oregon and Washington attended. Subjects included the importance of secondary and post-secondary advisory boards at automotive training programs, the value of job shadowing at shops, career day presentations at schools, scholarship programs, and a new apprenticeship program in Washington.

Sponsored by the ASE Education Foundation, Northwest Automotive Trades Association (NATA), Automotive Service Association Northwest (ASA-NW), NAPA, and Cengage (ASE test prep books), the event was coordinated by Margaret Ragan of NATA and Walt Commans, ASE Education Foundation manager, who served as emcee. Staff from ASA-NW were also involved in the promotion of the event, and most of their executive board attended.

The necessity for additional participation at advisory councils was stressed by several industry and education partners.

“The need to educate advisory council members is vital,” said Jason Limiquiz, Automotive Technology instructor at Perry Institute in Yakima, Wash. “They need to really understand what the program is doing so they can be active and helpful participants.”

Bryan Kelley, AMAM, owner of Valley Auto Electric in Covington, Wash., said high school administrators often don’t understand the need for automotive training programs, thus educating them, often via an active advisory council, can be an effective method of communication.

Job shadowing and co-op programs are important elements of automotive training and partnerships with industry, said Cameron Tormanen, owner of AG Automotive in Portland. “Some colleges even cover insurance issues when students participate in these programs.”

Jim Houser, AAM, co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, added that the need for middle school presentations on career days is important to get students interested in the automotive industry. Others said industry presentations to classes at all levels, including elementary schools, is essential to exposing industry careers to students.

Industry professionals and educators from Washington noted that the state’s Core 24 program has altered how students plan for career and college futures based on changes in the required number of distribution credits.

The availability of scholarships for automotive training was discussed with several roundtable participants indicating that there are plentiful programs available, many not getting many applicants. Scholarships can be accessed at that offers dozens of scholarships and financial aid. In Oregon, scholarships, grants, and financial aid are available at Jeff Lovell, AMAM, president and executive director of ASA-NW, added that several scholarships are available each year to attend the Automotive Training Expo (ATE) in Seattle.

In the closing portion of the roundtable, Conrad “Butch” Jobst, AMAM, of B&B Automotive in Aberdeen, WA, and ASA-NW chairman of the board and education committee, gave a brief report on the newly developed ITAC apprenticeship program approved by Washington state last fall. He said the program is now in its beta stage and will begin this fall at select automotive training programs.

 “The Industry-Education Roundtable was a huge success,” said Cathi Webb, executive director of NATA. “Feedback was very positive and everyone learned something new to help our automotive industries replenish our workforce.”

Another roundtable is tentatively being organized for October, said Margaret Ragan of NATA who organized the first event.

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