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Auto tech program at ETHS preps students for real jobs

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When Lupe Martinez, a senior at Evanston Township High School, sees a car coming to a stop, his mind sees more than the rest of us. He envisions fluid flowing through lines that causes brake pads to expand and press against rotors connected to the tires that bring the vehicle to a halt.

Lupe is a student of Michael Wylie, a 66-year-old veteran mechanic who has run the school’s auto tech program for the past 11 years and has seen many of his students go on to satisfying careers in the field of auto service technicians and mechanics.

It’s a field that holds promise to students who do not see a regular four-year college in their future, yet desire to work productively in an area that pays reasonably well and offers a fair amount of job security.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts steady growth in the employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics as the number of vehicles increases, owners keep their cars longer, and older mechanics retire.

Michael Wylie works with students on auto repair.

“Job opportunities are expected to be very good for those who complete postsecondary automotive training programs and who earn ASE certification,” says the BLS.

That ASE, or Automotive Service Excellence, certification was recently bestowed upon the ETHS auto tech program, making it only the 16th high school in the state to earn that seal of approval from the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation.

Because of the certification, ETHS graduates of the auto tech program have a leg up on non-trained individuals when it comes to applying for entry-level positions in the service departments at auto dealerships.

Lupe, however, intends to take advantage of an arrangement the school has with Triton College of River Grove to pursue a degree in automotive technology.

According to the BLS, employers are looking for people with strong communication and analytical skills.

“Technicians need good reading, mathematics, and computer skills to study technical manuals. They must also read to keep up with new technology and learn new service and repair procedures and specifications.”

Computers in the auto tech lab are used by students to access repair manuals for various cars

In the auto tech lab at ETHS, there is a room filled with computers, where students are able to access repair manuals for virtually any make or model vehicle. For real life experience, they work on cars belonging to teachers and students under the careful guidance of Mr. Wylie.

But mechanical expertise often begins at an early age.

“I remember as a little kid, me and my dad would go out to the garage to work on our cars,” recalls Lupe. “I would always be there, looking around, seeing what he would need, how he did certain things.”

His training at ETHS has made him even more valuable around the garage at home, as he works on his dad’s 2004 Chevy Avalanche, and his mom’s 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

As for his own driving, the 18-year-old says he has been studying  for his drivers license and plans to go out this weekend to take the test for his drivers license. But he says, “I don’t see it as a joyride. I see it as a privilege and as a necessity.”

Top: Lupe Martinez works on a car in the ETHS auto tech lab

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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