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Ford dealership gives cars and careers to KTEC

The Ford cars were donated as training materials for the KTEC automotive department, to strengthen student's skills in more modern vehicle computers.
Credit: Coeur d'Alene Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Auto shop students like to take stuff apart and put it back together, so students at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus in Rathdrum were thrilled Tuesday when KTEC received a donation of two 2014 Ford vehicles, reports our partners from the Coeur d'Alene Press.

“This one sounds like it has a bit of a rattle,” said one student, as he pushed the throttle while another student sat in the driver’s seat.

Donated by Ford Motor Company and Coeur d’Alene dealership Mike White Ford, the Ford Fiesta and Focus are the highest caliber donations KTEC has received to date, KTEC director Colby Mattila said, with a combined value of roughly $20,000.

Ford Motor Company representatives, including technical talent placement specialist Joe Bahna, came to support and to encourage students in their career paths.“We’ve done a lot of collaborative work with KTEC,” said Chelsea White, service manager for Mike White Ford. “We’ve had quite a few students who were great additions to our team.”

The car dealership has nine employees in its service department, hired as KTEC graduates.

Mattila and KTEC’s board of directors are developing strong ties with the Ford Motor Company and Mike White Ford through Ford’s corporate training program, Automotive Career Exploration, or ACE.

ACE takes the internal Ford Motor Company training program used to teach its mechanics, and converts it to curriculum for local trade schools.

Of the 645 national participating schools, KTEC is ranked No. 1, with 2,100 ACE courses completed.

KTEC instructors like Jack Neal have incorporated the curriculum into their lesson structure to give students foundational skills that carry over into other car brands, and prepare students for work in the automotive industry.

“I wanted to fill the gaps that I thought were missing when I went through this program…” Neal said. “It’s huge, the amount of opportunities these kids have that I didn’t have when I came here.”

Mattila and instructors like Neal collaborate with Mike White Ford Service Director Ed Baker to develop and grow a strong workforce for the future.

“This industry has been my life since I got into it,” Baker said.

In high school, he said, he was told he was going to college, but he wanted to go to trade school.

Baker has been instrumental in collaborating with both KTEC and the Ford Motor Company to build up the ACE program within the school. He’s orchestrated engine donations to get better resources and support from Ford, and uses his relationships to build his community.

The Ford Motor Company and Mike White Ford donations will stay in the school shop long-term as a training tool for the program's students, and the vehicles have been re-titled, never to go back on the road.

Normally KTEC repairs and sells older vehicle donations to pay for student resources, including new and modern tools for the lab, or to cover travel expenses to competitions.

They take broken vehicle donations, fix them and sell them for a slight profit to buy bonus materials, based on industry demand.

Because these cars are such high quality and so much newer than other donations, the lab will keep them for future classes.

The vehicles will be fixed, torn down, rebuilt and have the ability to impact and teach hundreds of students.

Chelsea White said her family is happy to give back to the community with these donations and to contribute to KTEC’s work.

“We have our internal motives for sure,” White said. “It’s obviously to better our organization, and to encourage the students to be better equipped to join the workforce.”

Mike White Ford provides job shadows to students hand-picked by instructors, and often hires students from them.

Ashton Fowler was hired from a job shadow position at Mike White Ford in 2019, when he graduated KTEC.

“There’s a lot of people I know in my family who weren’t able to work at their job,” Fowler said. “But after all that, I was still working, still had a place there. I love it, Mike really takes good care of us.”

Fowler attended the vehicle donation on his day off to support the students and the automotive program.

“There’s not as many young people that are feeding into the technical place,” White said.

She sees a hole in the job supply, so her company tries to develop its own employees to be competitive.

“It’s gratifying to look back at individuals we’ve hired who have become very successful,” White said.

Earlier this year, 100% of the senior class graduated from the program with a job already lined up. The 186 students received an average of four job offers per student.

Baker said this is an opportunity for them to help young members of the workforce grow and become successful.

“Our communities don’t survive without tradesmen,” he said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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