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  • Last modified 49 days ago (Feb. 28, 2019)

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College auto program provides head start

Staff writer

For Centre High School graduate Jace Hett, getting his automotive technician certificate last year as a senior provided a head start on his career path.

“If I didn’t do it my senior year, I’d have to do it after that,” he said. “It saved me a year and it was a lot cheaper.”

Hett, now a mechanic at Hillsboro Ford, received his certificate from Butler Community College in 2018, investing six hours each day into learning the trade.

Students in the class can work toward an associate’s degree, or take it as a one-year certificate program.

Those getting the certificate take only the automotive classes, which can be an advantage because not everyone works well in a traditional class setting, instructor Mark Jaye said.

“Some students aren’t cut out for math, science, or English classes,” he said. “This gives them a chance to work in a program where they’re passionate about what they’re doing.”

Most of the work is hands-on, but there are six weeks of bookwork and lectures at the start, Jaye said.

“There are basic practices they have to learn,” he said. “You can’t just turn them loose because bad habits can become bad choices.”

One of the differences at Butler is that students work with vehicles directly, instead of using simulators, Jaye said.

“We do it old school, but we have a lot of community support, from dealerships and manufacturers, to the local shops,” he said. “There’s a huge need for this.”

While Jaye has been teaching in the auto program six years, his five students from Centre last year were the first he had from Marion County.

“It was a fantastic year and the students were stellar,” he said. “It just becomes an issue getting students who are far enough ahead in their education that they can spend the day here.”

Hett had to drive an hour each way, but didn’t mind because he was working in a program he enjoyed.

“I don’t like sitting at a desk,” he said. “I like working on cars, so that’s all I really want to do with my life.”

While Jaye’s course is again without any Marion County natives, there is an interest in vocational programs at Centre, Hett said.

“There are quite a few people from Centre who want to be mechanics or welders,” he said. “They don’t want to sit in an English room.”

Even people who are not high school or college students can enroll in the program to get a certificate, Jaye said.

“I get people who are just looking for a career change because they don’t like flipping burgers,” he said. “I get a lot of those students.”

Last modified Feb. 28, 2019

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