BUTLER TWP — Working under the hood at the Butler County Vocational-Technical School gets students ahead if they pursue a career working on cars.
Students in both the heavy equipment repair program and the automotive program get credit through the Ford Motor Co.'s ACE accreditations.
Instructors say their students can enter the auto repair industry more competitive than rookie colleagues. Ford representatives say the school training cuts down on time spent doing required computer training.
To aid their training, Ford gave the school two engines in early October. The heavy equipment class got a 6.4 liter diesel engine and a turbo charger, while the automotive class received a 3.7 liter gasoline engine.
Both engines were retired from the auto company's own training facilities and were donated through Butler County Ford.
Bill Rearick, who teaches the heavy equipment side, said his students will soon be using the new engine as a real-world component of their ACE training, which is computer based. He usually has over 50 students in the program each year.
“It'll be broke down, and we'll have all the parts sitting out on a bench,” Rearick said. “All of my students are hands-on learners. It helps bring it all together.”
Rick Bennett, the automotive instructor, has 70 students this year. He said they started circling the engine hungrily when it appeared in their classroom one day.
Bennett spent a decade repairing cars for dealerships. He said skilled mechanics are judged — and paid — based on how well they can solve all of a customers' problems on the first go-round. The test engine gives an opportunity to make a few mistakes now, rather than on a customer's car.
“They're miles ahead of someone who just comes in off the street to get a job as a technician,” Bennett said.
Candidates for the jobs in question are in demand, according to Butler Ford representatives. Marshall Thompson, service manager for Butler County Ford, said teams like his are “in dire need of technicians.” Catherine Glasgow, the local dealership's owner, concurred.
“These students are our future,” Glasgow said.