Training program

St. Vrain Valley School District is piloting Toyota Automotive Training Program

St. Vrain Valley automotive students will benefit from a new training certificate option as the district’s Career Elevation and Technology Center will become a pilot site for a Toyota training program.

Toyota, which offers both high school and college education programs, is piloting a community college level program at three high schools across the country, including the Career Elevation and Technology Center in Longmont.

“This gives the students the opportunity to have this technical training,” said automotive professor Brain Smallwood. “They can start working at a higher pay level. We have really tried to develop the opportunities for the students.

From left to right, Automotive Instructor Brian Smallwood works with Toyota Motors North America Technician Development Field Manager Winston Morgan during a training session at the St. Vrain Valley School District Career Elevation and Technology Center in Longmont Thursday. (Matthew Jonas / Personal photographer)

The Technical Education College Support, or TECS, Elite program provides participating schools with two cars, engines, diagnostic tools, a curriculum, and two days of teacher training. Students who complete the program earn Toyota and Lexus technician training certifications. The program also includes opportunities for on-the-job shadowing and internships at local dealerships.

Automotive teacher Josh Oliver, who took an automotive program when he was in high school, said he would have been given internship and apprenticeship options.

“It’s good for our program to have a connection with the industry,” said Oliver. “It’s an opportunity for us to better educate these guys on what they’re going to see in the real world.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, three Toyota employees worked with Oliver and Smallwood, going over the program and tools.

“We really want to generate interest early on and show the career path,” said Scott Rill, a regional field technical specialist at Toyota.

About 140 students are enrolled in automobile lessons in Saint-Vrain. The three-year program begins with maintenance and light repairs, where students will learn to use Toyota diagnostic tools. Next school year there are plans to add a course in business management and leadership in partnership with Front Community College.

Students who complete all three years earn up to 26 college credits and multiple certificates.

Aldo Lopez, a junior at Niwot High, said he wanted to take automotive lessons from college because of his interest in cars. In addition, he said, it is a good option for the job because “the demand for cars will always be there. He is considering becoming a mechanic or pursuing studies in mechanical engineering.

With the increasing complexity of automotive systems, he added, he prefers to take lessons rather than learn by tinkering.

“I didn’t know much about electronics,” he says. “I like having a teacher as a mentor to guide you. They know what they are doing.

His classmate Jonathan Rico, a junior at Skyline High, said he enjoyed hands-on class work and “having fun with the cars.”

“I hope to open my own auto garage,” he said. “That’s the point.”