By Brenda Flanagan
One student worked the machine while 49 classmates watched. Most come from Newark, most are in their 20s and all want to get certified as an auto technician.
“I’m learning a lot. It’s very hands on. Lotta hands-on work,” said auto tech student Charles Daniels.
We’re at New Community Workforce Development Center supported by more than a quarter-million state dollars, and a long list of public programs and private companies. Auto manufacturers like Ford and BMW come here to recruit techs. Many go straight from school into a job. And there’s no tuition.
“Well this school, number one, is free,” said auto tech student Daniels. “Can’t beat that.”
Daniels was a cop. These students defy stereotype — and they’re highly motivated.
“Basically, I can do anything a man can do,” student Alnisa Miller said.
“I went to college,” said student Damion Brown, but admitted it’s not for everybody.
“And there’s great money to be made, you know? It’s so much money to be made, it might as well go in my pocket,” Miller said.
How much money? Lots.
“Auto mechanics can make up to, like, $125,000. Parts people and managers can make up to $150,000 a year,” said Career Works Regional Director Regina Barboza.
“This is an amazing opportunity you have. Not only to be technicians, but to do something you love to do but also to spring board you to anything you want to do in the future,” BMW Tech. Training Manager Johnly Velasquez said.
Valesquez says BMW needs 733 new techs now. It’s a booming occupation. New Jersey surveys counted 16,800 auto techs last year, but will need more than 22,000 in just a few short years. In fact, employers complain they need more highly-skilled, properly trained workers.
“There is a big pool to draw from. It’s just the effectiveness of the workforce is not as great even though there’s a lot of people,” said Terminal Construction Project Manager Brian Senyk.
We’re at a building site. Terminal Construction employs about 150 people here, including apprentices, who learn on the job.
An apprentice plumber or carpenter might earn $65 to $80 an hour — including benefits. And there’s no tuition.
Roderick Miller went to college, but got laid off.
“With the apprenticeship program, they’re keeping me working steadily. It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” he said.
He’ll be certified as a carpenter with a job waiting for him. Miller’s also aiming high.
“We have to teach our young daughters this is not a man’s world. It takes a woman to create it,” she said.
She’s aiming for a spot at BMW.