AKRON, Ohio– In 2018 Bridgestone Americas, in partnership with Akron Public Schools, opened a Firestone Complete Auto Care Center at East Community Learning Center. As a result, it's now helping Bridgestone grow and fill a sliver of the auto tech shortage as it gives students a leg up in an industry where there's high demand.
- Second in the nation to have a Firestone Complete Auto Care Center
- Four-year pathway to help fill auto tech shortage and other careers
- Open to the community during the weekday for service
As 18-year-old Billie Johnson checks the tires on a Toyota, he gets a little assistance from his automotive teacher Chad Groom at East Community Learning Center. With the hose hooked up, he adds pressure. "For me to know and to like be able to use it as a skill set and a way to make money in the future, I feel very confident." The high school senior, along with one hundred plus other students, is studying automotive technology. They're working on cars that have been donated or brought in by faculty and the community.
As teacher Chad Groom works with Billie and other students, he says he believes this opportunity is taking away the stigma that a mechanic may not be business savvy. He says, "Today the technology, it's leaps and bounds from where it used to be. So really you have to be good with not only your hands, but you gotta be good with computers and your reading skills have to be on point."
The four-year hands-on pathway teaches students about electrical engineering, operating systems for all cars, vehicle maintenance, and how to rebuild engines. Maliyah Ramsey wants to be a mechanical engineer and is using this pathway to get there. "I really started liking it...really started like to put the pieces and parts together." Billie, who's learning how to patch this tire right now, wants to be a firefighter and fix fire trucks. He says the skills he's gained, has already helped him, help others. While he's got quite a bit more to learn, he's hoping it'll get him to the finish line for graduation and a good job when he leaves.
Students are also running the retail side of things at the car care center, which is enhancing their social skills and math skills. Revenue made from car care sales goes right back into the program. School officials say while this is helping one sector, it is opening doors to many more careers through this pathway. The automotive technology center is only the second in the nation Bridgestone has built. The other is in Nashville, Tennessee.