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MDE expands number of auto tech programs in state

This school year, close to a third of Mississippi school districts are offering high school students a nationally accredited automotive technology program that will prepare them for direct entry into the workforce.

Mississippi is one of only 17 states that require high school automotive technology programs to be accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). The Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation oversees the accreditation process, which includes an extensive evaluation of each program’s facilities, standards, instructors and administration.

“The automotive technology field has become increasingly complex over the past decade, and high school programs have had to develop their staff, equipment and curriculum in order to teach the advanced technologies this profession requires,” said Wendy Clemons, executive director of secondary education at the Mississippi Department of Education.

Approximately 41 high school career and technical education (CTE) programs statewide offer students NATEF-certified training in 2018-19. The number of certified programs is expected to grow as more Mississippi high school CTE programs complete the accreditation process.

To recognize the growing number of NATEF-certified teachers in Mississippi, East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) hosted 36 certified automotive technology teachers this summer for a celebration and a specialized training provided by BMW.

EMCC is a leader in automotive technology training and is one of several community colleges in Mississippi that offers an associate degree in automotive service technology. The community college program provides a career ladder for high school graduates who want to build upon the maintenance and light repair training they receive in high school.

“Automotive industry contacts have told us that nationally certified programs will better train students for the automotive industry and make the industries more willing to invest in the certified programs,” Clemons said. “These investments can range from more training for instructors to equipment donations for the automotive technology labs.”

Guillermo Lopez from Gulf States Toyota, which covers five southern and southwestern states, said there is a big demand for qualified entry-level workers who want to build a successful career in the automotive industry.

“Our mission, in partnership with Toyota dealers, is to support programs that create tomorrow’s Toyota technician,” Lopez said. “We want to increase student interest in pursuing a career in technical education and provide them with the resources and skillset that Toyota believes is essential for success. This skills gap does exist in our industry, and it’s our collective responsibility to partner with our local schools and communities to advise them on all the great opportunities the automotive industry has to offer.”

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