Workforce development training provides career options for high school juniors

Instead of spending his summer bussing tables and working construction like last year, 17-year-old Carlos Mora is learning the career skills to become an automotive technician.

Mora is one of hundreds of high school juniors across the country enrolled in Universal Technical Institute’s no-cost summer Ignite program, which trains students in automotive, diesel, motorcycle and collision repair mechanical technology. Students take the same introductory courses as graduates of the school’s full-tuition program.

“The students get a really robust education in the classroom and hands on learning in our labs. They go through the exact material that full-time UTI students complete, and after successfully completing the summer program, students earn credits towards a UTI education,” said Patrick Bennett, Director of Operations at UTI’s Avondale campus. “We want to show high school students a free way to experience this type of education, so they can make a conscientious choice towards their career.”

The six-week program is held on all 12 UTI campuses across the country, including two schools in Arizona.

Mora, who will be a senior at the prestigious University High School in Tolleson, said he learned about the program from his automotive technology teacher.

Tolleson Union High School District’s Director of Career and Technical Education Debbie McKintosh, said the southwest Valley district wants to ensure all students graduate with the opportunities to be college and career ready.

“We work very closely with our community partners such as UTI and other business and industry partners to ensure teachers have access to work with professionals in the field,” she said. “Our kids leave our high schools, whether they’re going into college or the workforce, and have the skills to earn a higher income right away and earn their way through college.”

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2026 there will be more than 1.2 million job openings in the automotive, diesel and collision repair industries. UTI projects that the transportation industry will need to fill more than 120,000 technician jobs annually.

“People make a living by either driving to their place of work or doing their work with goods and services made or delivered with an engine. Technicians keep our world and economy moving,” Bennett said. “It’s critical for the business community to realize the need and how UTI is filling that need with our graduates.”

For Mora, he said he is passionate about the automotive industry and appreciates that he is able to explore a potential career opportunity while “having fun.”

“It’s really humbling that we have the opportunity to receive training, especially for families like mine that don’t have money just sitting around,” he said. “I wanted to get every opportunity I could to learn about being an automotive technician. I like exploring heavy machinery, and after this program, I now hope to be an engineer for a diesel company.”

Megan Gilbertson

Nick Serpa

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