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Partnership in Tipton provides hands-on training to future automotive technicians to ease labor shortage

Hands-on learning
Laura Hapner with Ivy Tech
Jackson Money
Ivy Tech instructor gives advice
Don Frick of CAG
Posted at 4:57 AM, Nov 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-03 09:10:19-04

TIPTON — According to a recent study by S&P, Americans are driving their cars for a longer period of time.

The study shows the average age for cars on the roads here in the U.S. is now up to 12.5 years old.

With the rising costs of new vehicles, many Americans are holding onto their current rides, and that means they are going to need repairs.

The automotive technician industry continues to see a shortage of workers, which is why one local partnership in north central Indiana is working to take a stab at the problem.

"Right now we are learning about transmissions, clutches brakes," said Tipton High School senior Jackson Money. "Just pretty much anything we can get our hands on."

Jackson Money
Jackson Money says when you get an opportunity like this, just take it.

He is busy at work during the school day underneath a car at a dealership in Tipton, alongside several other classmates.

"I was very interested growing up around my brother and grandpa and dad and being around cars," said Money, who is a participant in the new ATEP program, which stands for Automotive Technician Education Pathway.

Jackson Money learning in the lab
Jackson Money spends 3 hours a day away from Tipton High School and here at the academy learning hands-on.

It is a partnership between local schools, Ivy Tech Kokomo and Chariot Automotive Group in Tipton.

"When there's a business or industry partner who comes to us for a need, we want to be able to fill that need," said Laura Hapner of Ivy Tech Kokomo. "It was clear that this is really a gap."

Hapner says this ATEP program is for high school juniors and senior in north central Indiana.

Laura Hapner with Ivy Tech
Laura Hapner says when a business industry leader come to them with a need, they try to fill that gap.

They leave the classroom for a few hours a day and come here to the academy at Chariot Automotive Group.

Part of the time they work in the classroom, and part of the time they spend doing hands-on learning in the lab.

Classwork is included
Students also spend time in the classroom learning concepts and earning credit toward their Ivy Tech degree.

Ivy Tech Kokomo provides instruction to the students as they earn valuable training in this in-demand career. It is considered a dual-enrollment course and participants can get prepared to be an automotive tech after graduation or they can take what they've learned and apply it to other areas in the industry.

Upon completion of the ATEP program, students here will be offered a full-time automotive technician position at one of Chariot's four dealerships in the area.

Ivy Tech instructor gives advice
Ivy Tech provides the instruction here at the academy.

Hapner says they utilize career coaches in the high schools to help students and their parents learn about options like this training program. It is an opportunity for students to get free training toward a career before they even graduate school and can set them on a path to success with less college debt.

She says the career center covers the full cost of this training, so students can get into this career pipeline for free.

Lab experience
Students are all eyes on the instructor when learning in the lab.

She says there is no limit on what these students can achieve in this program.

"If a student wants to stay in the field there is work, there is opportunity," said Hapner. "If they want to stay in that field but in a different capacity, there's lots of opportunity for that as well."

A great example of someone who did just that is Don Frick, Talent Recuriter for Chariot Automotive Group.

Don Frick of CAG
Don Frick got his start as a technician and worked his way up into a management role.

"Well I've been in the industry for 47 years and we've been talking about shortages of techs the whole 47," said Frick. "We can either keep complaining about the shortage of techs, or do something about it and that's what we are doing."

Frick got his start in the industry as an automotive tech. He moved up into a management role and is now in upper management.

He says he knows the opportunities in this industry for technicians, and now in recruitment, he sees the demand.

Students working on cars
Students learn in the lab with an Ivy Tech instructor.

He says an estimated 630,000 techs are needed across the nation to work on anything from automobiles to airplanes, semis and more.

"It's gonna just keep getting more complex with all the vehicles and the EVs coming out, the electric vehicles," said Frick. "These EV cars, if you don't know what you are doing, they can be very dangerous to work on."

He says interested students in high school can reach out to them and they will give them an aptitude test to see if they are mechanical and able to grasp this kind of training.

He says he has never laid off a technician because there is such a shortage, and so there is job security, and these are high tech jobs.

"There are more semi computers on vehicles today than the Apollo mission had when they went to the moon," said Jim Woolf, Administrative Director for Workforce at Chariot Automotive Group. "And like a person, a vehicle needs good health care."

The ATEP Program
The ATEP program stands for Automotive Technician Education Pathway program.

Woolf says the students are totally engaged in the lab and they enjoy getting to work hands-on with the vehicles.

He says the ATEP program at Chariot currently has 27 students, 26 male and one female, and they spend about three hours a day at the academy.

He says this is a jump start in their careers and that studies show when student take part in these types of hands-on program, they tend to stick around, so he hopes many of these young people will continue on to work at Chariot for their careers.

"This is just another way that Chariot can give back to the community," said Woolf. "Give a good education to our youth, who are going to stay and be involved in our community."

In addition to the ATEP program, Chariot also provides opportunities for their current employees to take part in an apprenticeship program where they too can learn to be automotive technicians as well as an apprenticeship program for other high school graduates.

The high school graduates can take part in the Dept. of Labor accredited apprenticeship program in Automotive Technology.

During this apprenticeship, students receive hands-on experience while participating in classroom instruction.

Current Chariot Automotive Group employees can participate in leadership development opportunities, sales training, and other hands-on trainings that can then be applied to certifications through Ivy Tech.

To learn more about these opportunities, visit