Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2006   by Richard Bellafante

Remember when there was auto shop in every school?

This is Mark. He's in his senior year at Don Bosco C.S.S. in Toronto and this is his Auto class project. With dwindling funding, poor public perception and many more educational choices than were avai...


This is Mark. He’s in his senior year at Don Bosco C.S.S. in Toronto and this is his Auto class project. With dwindling funding, poor public perception and many more educational choices than were available years ago, Mark is where he wants to be, in the shop.

He still has choices and hasn’t decided yet if this is what he’ll do after High School. But for now, making body panels and bringing a car back to life is making Mark happy and giving him much needed career exposure.

Most of us can remember High School Auto Shop, usually with a grin. It’s still alive and kicking. But a few changes have been made. Scan tools have replaced engine analyzers, sensors are taught instead of carbon circuits. And more girls are taking shop than ever before.

Transportation Technology isn’t as specific as Auto Shop was. Back then there was Auto, Small Engines, Machine Shop, Electricity, Electronics, and Body Shop if the school had it. All of those have been rolled up into one under the name of Transportation Technology. But there is a bright side, such as greater flexibility in what we can teach. I can teach small engines and electricity at the same time if the kids are interested, and if they’re interested, they’ll stay. Different projects for different students has allowed Mark to excel at body work and given him an aptitude he might not otherwise have had. So Auto Shop has changed since those of us over thirty went to school; but the kids still have that grin.

This brings me to another point I’d like to address in this article. One of the most common things I hear in the Transportation Technology Lab, especially from the parents of prospective mini-technicians, is “I wish I took Shop when I was in school.”

Auto shop students and their parents today haven’t been exposed to cars in ways many of us had been while growing up. Instead, the time students once spent working or studying a car and its mechanics has been replaced by computers and the playing of video games on computers and gaming consoles. I’d bet if video games were taken out of the computers, many students would have little exposure to computers as well. Take the fun out of computers and I bet there would be little interest in taking computers apart or knowing how computers work.

Many kids today can tear down a computer and replace a bad motherboard, but don’t transfer those analytical skills or manual dexterity to auto repairs. They can’t make the jump that the skills needed to replace a motherboard or attach a new hard drive or sound card are the same skills used in auto repairs. As much as the parents of these kids say they want to know more about the inner workings of their cars and minivans, these same parents still don’t want their son or daughter working in the “dirty industry” they believe auto repair is. What if our shops had white floors, and good lighting, and, maybe, good heating in the winter? I wonder how people would perceive the trade then. Maybe they wouldn’t mind seeing their son or daughter in that environment!

Richard Bellafante teaches automotive technology at Etobicoke Ontario’s Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.


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