A representative of the Ford Motor Company came to Parker High School Nov. 8 to offer his company’s congratulations to Lee Hibl’s auto shop students. Cesar Martinez, Ford’s Regional Technical Talent Placement Specialist, told the students they placed fifth among schools in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico is Ford’s ACE program.

“You’ve shown you are focused on learning a trade,” Martinez told the students. “You’re serious about becoming an automotive technician. Keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

ACE stands for Automotive Career Exploration. It’s a program of courses designed to prepare students to become entry level automotive technicians. It involves partnerships between high schools and colleges or trade schools with local Ford and Lincoln dealerships. There is no charge to the students other than that the program must be sponsored by a local Ford or Lincoln dealership.

There are 60 schools in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico that are involved in Ford’s ACE program.

The program is sponsored by the Parker Motor Co., the Ford and Lincoln dealership in Parker. Josh Greenwalt of PMC told the students they have service people who are from 60 to 70 years old, and they need people to replace them. He said service technicians can earn more than $60,000 to $80,000 a year here in Parker.

“We’re letting you get your foot in the door,” he told the students.

Greenwalt and Martinez said they now refer to auto repair people as “technicians” rather than “mechanics” because of all the high-tech equipment many cars have.

The ACE program serves to highlight there is a serious shortage of tradespeople in the nation. The shortage has been reported on by the media, including the Washington Post. It’s not just auto technicians. It’s also electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and many other skilled trades which don’t require a college degree.

The owner and general manager of PMC, Dan Beaver, said he began partnering with Parker High three years ago because he was tired of going out-of-town when recruiting new technicians. He said they currently have two Parker High graduates working for PMC, one of whom is 19 while the other is 20. He said they’re both doing very well.

“There’s a serious shortage of auto technicians nationwide,” Beaver said. “There are many opportunities, and lots of money to be made.”

In addition to learning the technical side of auto repairs, Martinez said students need to develop the personal traits that will help them when they seek employment.

“You must be able to pass a background check, have a clean driving record, and no drugs,” Martinez said. “You must be organized. Remember:  time is money. You must also be punctual. If you’re to be at work at 8 a.m., be ready to work before 8 a.m. You must be ethical. That refers to what you do when you think no one is looking.”

Parker High Principal David Daly said the students are learning real world applications from their education.

“It’s wonderful Parker Ford decided to partner with us,” he said. “We feel very fortunate to have them partnering with us.”

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