12 Graduate Auto Repair Program; Youth Job Center, Oakton Community College and ETHS Collaborate
One participant was DeOndre Smith, 20, of Harvey. He said he had been out of work for a few months when he heard about the new auto mechanic training program. Smth began making the 2 ½-hour trip everyday to ETHS in February. He said he had to take three buses and two trains to get to ETHS.
Smith said he was certified in painting and dry walling, but work usually dried up every winter. He also had several relatives working in auto repair and had always been interested in launching a career in the field. "When I heard about this new program, through a friend, I really wanted to be in it," he said.
The class was offered at ETHS and taught by an instructor from Oakton Community College. The Youth Job Center of Evanston supervised the program. Autobarn, Midas and Duxler -- all Evanston businesses -- provided paid internships.
In late May, Smith was among 12 young men who graduated from the unique program.
All 12 are now employed full time at one of the participating businesses and are earning $9.50-$10.50 an hour. All are 18 to 25 years old.
"These 12 young men were not previously connected to work or school and faced a definite risk of chronic unemployment or underemployment," said James Kauffman, interim director at the Youth Job Center.
Oakton Community College instructor Tom Sprengelmeyer customized the curriculum so that basic skills could be learned in 10 weeks. He started with the skills necessary to be successful in any work place, including timeliness, attire and interaction with customers, then moved on with basic repair work.
"The students were an incredible group of young people," Sprengelmeyer said. "They were very dedicated and wanted to be there and be the best that they could be. They made it work."
Nichole Morrison, YJC career adviser who supervised the program, also said she was impressed by the commitment shown among participants. "Some of these young men traveled from the far south suburbs such as Midlothian," she said. "It was a challenge to get here, but they made it."
Morrison explained that the participants attended six hours of classes every week and worked in their paid internships two days a week.
They received their certificate of completion and can now move forward in the auto industry, she said. "They were able to get their foot in the door and can now take more training," she said.
A graduation ceremony was held May 29, in which each graduate received a tool kit - a requirement for work in the car repair industry.
A second course in automotive repair will be offered through the collaboration and taught at ETHS this fall, Morrison said. The program will include 20 students in the fall.
Smith said he was thrilled to finish the program and get his first job in auto repair. He is working full time at Autobarn in Evanston at 1033 Chicago Ave.
"I loved the program. It was awesome," he said. "I really liked our teacher, Tom [Sprengelmeyer] because he understood we were all grown people. He didn't speak to us like we were kids, and he gave us a lot of his time. It was such a good program."