Automotive Technician Education Pathway Program Sets Students up for Success

Writer / Julie Yates
Photography Provided

Tipton High School has partnered with Chariot Automotive Group and Ivy Tech Community College to offer an innovative program to qualifying students.

Those enrolled in the Automotive Technician Education Pathway (ATEP) program will graduate with 36 hours of college credit and a certificate in automotive technology, and will also be immediately employable. The program, which is held at Academy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Tipton, was initiated by Rex Gingerich, chief executive officer of Chariot Automotive Group, and developed by Jim Woolf, administrative director for workforce development at Chariot Automotive Group.Automotive Technician Education Pathway

“Basically the concept started with the stark realization that before too long, Indiana and the rest of the nation will likely encounter a huge shortage of qualified auto service technicians,” says Carrie Capshaw, a Tipton High School counselor. “Chariot Automotive worked closely with Jim Woolf and the department of labor to develop a youth apprenticeship program where students can receive classroom instruction from Ivy Tech while also participating in hands-on work experience in the auto shop.”

“Rex’s vision is education for all employees – sales, management and techs,” says Woolf. “He wanted to take the continuing education for the company’s techs to a higher level and asked me to do grant writing for Ivy Tech tuition. Then he said, ‘What can we do for the youth in the community?’ ATEP was a couple of years in the making before the first class was implemented this August.”

A two-year program starting for juniors was crafted. Participants travel to Academy in Tipton and work both in a classroom and a hands-on lab for three hours each school day. Besides Tipton High School, enrollment includes students from four Hamilton County high schools including Hamilton Heights, Sheridan, Noblesville and Westfield.

“Currently we have 27 students, but we expect a few may drop out as time goes along,” says Woolf. “Right now it is going excellent. It’s a robust education program with college credit courses every day, and the first week was a shock for some. The kids really seem to enjoy it and are engaged.”Automotive Technician Education Pathway

“My dad and grandpa grew up around cars and have always fixed and done routine maintenance on cars in my family,” says Tipton student Jackson Money. “I help them and I recently got more into cars because of them. I have really enjoyed getting to know the people in my class and getting more hands-on experience. My biggest surprise about ATEP has been the amount of knowledge I have already gained and the material that we get to learn. I think ATEP will help me get a head start on things in the automotive industry and potentially set up a job for me after I graduate.”

Capshaw was asked to help identify possible candidates who had a strong interest in becoming auto service technicians, as well as the dedication and work ethic to begin college-level classes. In addition to finding students interested in the auto service program, various indicators such as grade point average, attendance rate, teacher recommendations and disciplinary referrals were considered when determining strong candidates for the program.

“We got the names from the guidance counselors and then we started talking to the students and their parents,” says Woolf. “When we talked to families, we answered the question about what this program does as far as a future job. The ‘so what’ is that they can become gainfully employed and have this program on their resume. It helps us who are looking for good techs. It doesn’t stop with high school. If they come to work for one of the Chariot Automotive Group dealerships, their education continues. They can start earning money and finish their associate degree with Ivy Tech.”

“I heard about the program through a friend and it caught my attention because I have always been interested in working on cars,” says Tipton student Caleb Hare. “I have enjoyed the hands-on learning from the course. I was surprised by the number of people taking the course.  I thought there would only be 10 to 12 people. I would like to be a mechanic and this will give me a lot of the knowledge I will need.”

Both Capshaw and Tipton High School Principal Craig Leach have expressed their gratitude for Chariot Automotive Group, Gingerich and Woolf for their desire to help students interested in the auto service industry find a way to get an affordable education while gaining firsthand work experience. Both feel the best aspect of the program is that it allows students interested in working in the automotive industry the opportunity to get great hands-on training and access to college credit, which will set them up for the workforce after graduation. The fact that Chariot will also give priority to these students for a job is a major perk.Automotive Technician Education Pathway

“I like the idea of being able to start my degree and being able to use what we learn in class out in the shop,” says Tipton student JT Vautaw. “I didn’t expect the amount of time we get to spend in the shop. Having this knowledge will help in my degree.”

“In the workshop there are toolboxes filled with excellent tools,” says Tipton student Mea Schambers. “There is also professional equipment that we use for our labs. The program has given me a jumpstart on my future career after high school. I want to earn an associate degree in automotive technology. Being in this program, I should be about halfway to my degree by the time I graduate high school. I’ve enjoyed the environment and kindness of all the dealership faculty. The faculty wants to see all of us succeed in this program.”

To learn more about the Automotive Technician Education Pathway program, visit

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