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Spark of inspiration
Students forge skillsBy Sean Thomas
It is a bridge between the classroom and gainful employment.
Amarillo officials hope a new internship program will get technically trained, skilled workers in the door and working on city vehicles.
This week, 21 students from Amarillo Independent School District will start work on the city's fleet of vehicles as part of a 16-week program to show students the array of technical jobs available with the city.
Karyn Pierce, AISD career and technology coordinator, said the city and AISD have been in discussions since August. Pierce said the program stems from the city's critical need to fill auto technology positions and the opportunity to expose students to possible career paths.
Students will be teamed up with mentors and work two or three two-hour shifts each week in the three fleet departments - municipal garage, transit and fire department. Marvin Polanco, a 17-year-old senior at Palo Duro High School, is most excited about working in the fire department.
"It just seems like there is more things to do on a fire truck than on normal trucks," Polanco said.
There actually are more systems on a fire truck, said Danny Dwight, AFD fleet administrator, making qualified mechanics much more difficult to find.
"This is a good starting place to alleviate that problem," Dwight said. "The technology changes so fast and we are struggling to keep up. We can expose these kids to the current technology so they can be more aware of it."
While the program is designed to get students interested in job opportunities with the city, some students could make better money working for private automotive repair shops. According to the city's human resource department, the students, if hired straight out of high school, would start as a trainee at about $8 or $9 an hour. According to area auto shops, graduating students could make $9 to $10 an hour.
Irvin Ramirez, 17, started auto technology education two years ago and said he got involved because the work could provide a good future.
"It's too early to tell if this is what I want do with the rest of my life," he said. "It's a start."
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