Tinkering on cars sounds like a fun way to spend the day. What if you could be doing that during school hours? That is exactly what Grade 10 to 12 students at the Rocky View Schools Mechanics Training Centre on the back lot of Cam Clark Ford do during the school year.
Since about 2000, Rocky View Schools has facilitated a partnership with Cam Clark Ford to provide education to students interested in the trade of automotive mechanics.
To support this program, Cam Clark Ford provides a licensed Ford technician onsite most days. They also provide and maintain all major mechanical equipment located in the shop. Tom van Wieringen with Cam Clark keeps a watchful eye on the students to ensure they are doing everything to code and provides real-world feedback since the students are working on actual vehicles belonging to customers.
Lead instructor Stephen Teasdale, a licensed mechanic who switched gears to teaching in 2011, says his goal is to facilitate learning that challenges each student to work to the best of their ability, and says with a hands-on experience like this it’s 30 per cent theory and 70 per cent practice. From recycling an entire vehicle to reconditioning an engine (on donated vehicles that are not designated to return to the road), the “tinkering” isn’t child’s play.
And it’s not just the mechanics of being a mechanic that the students learn; it’s also about learning how a shop runs, how to treat a customer vehicle and how to expect their own vehicles to be treated when getting serviced.
In order to accommodate such a workload, students spend half a day, every day, in the shop. Managing the shop and the program on behalf of Rocky View is Melanie Gilliland, who looks after everything from the student application process to all the regular administrative duties of a shop, ordering parts and invoicing clients. Gilliland is also there to provide support to students with their studies and testing.
“The best part of my job is seeing the knowledge and confidence gained by students through their experience in the shop dealing with real-life scenarios,” she says.
Mech 20 student Silas Hopman is pumped about the education he is receiving. “You learn so much, it’s incredible. At the beginning of this year I went from not knowing what a piston was to taking apart and rebuilding an engine.”
Approximately 1,900 man hours are spent on customer vehicles in the shop from September to June involving work such as tire and oil changes, brakes, steering and suspension repairs. At just under 4,000 square feet with four bays and three hoists, the space is well used with a maximum of 18 students per session (mornings and afternoons).
Tyler Le Cheminant is a Mech 30 student who packed Mechanics 10 and 20 into his Grade 11 schedule to catch up after schooling in Building Futures (a homebuilding trades program with McKee Homes). He is happy with his decision, and now looking at post-secondary education to continue training in mechanics. “It’s a great experience; you get to work with the tools you don’t usually find in a high school and I am getting real skills I can use.”
To book a car for repairs with the Mechanics Training Centre, call Melanie at 403-948-4188.