Ed Morse Automotive Group is creating opportunities and making a difference for SouthTech Automotive Technology Academy students to receive hands-on experience to achieve success in the field.
It has developed an ongoing partnership with the school’s academy in Boynton Beach, which has included training and recruiting students who have received certifications in the school’s program. SouthTech students have received opportunities to shadow employees and managers at their Ed Morse dealerships in Palm Beach County.
Ed Morse has donated vehicles, tool boxes, uniforms and other items to SouthTech. He also facilitated the construction of a Hunter Engineering Company training center at the school. Hunter’s team provided equipment as students gained experience using alignment and machines. The equipment is also updated every two years. Ed Morse has a presence at the school, as representatives will attend recruiting open houses and career fairs to talk to parents and students about the industry.
Richard Danahy, director of fixed operations for Ed Morse Automotive Group, said the academy prepares students for a career in the industry.
“Students are learning the core curriculum and learning a trade and a skill that will be applied,” he said. “Students who adopt the program and complete it have an advantage in their training and certifications. It makes a difference when they leave school. They remember seeing what they experienced in the program and can apply what they learned. They are more prepared to embark on the path they want than the one most college students end up with. We have students who come here and now work in our stores. “Once they gain traction in stores, they will be able to make a pretty good living doing this.”
Danahy, who has been with Ed Morse since 1992, thanked SouthTech Automotive and Collision Academy instructors for their efforts with the students.
“It’s a great partnership and the instructors here are committed and will do everything they can for these students,” he said. “The students are polite and professional. The instructors have instilled it. They learn the basics at SouthTech and get a lot out of it. “We definitely need to fill our stores.”
SouthTech has an automotive and collision academy, which has more than 150 enrolled students and four instructors. The program has a large number of vehicles through donations from dealers and individuals. Students have the opportunity to select one of the academies and receive instruction and training to industry standards in the classroom and on the shop floor. Students learn to use equipment correctly and identify tools. They receive training on safety and accident prevention, how to diagnose problems with vehicles, and how to plan a course of action for repairs.
SouthTech students have the opportunity to earn industry certifications, including Automotive Service Excellence. The entry-level certification program is designed for high school students. SouthTech automotive students achieved a total of 221 certifications last year, which is the highest mark since students began enrolling in the academy. The previous highest number was 168. Each student has the opportunity to earn up to 10 certifications in the school. If they pass all school certifications, they have the opportunity to go to a testing center to obtain a professional certification, which can last up to five years.
Tim Brown, who has been with SouthTech since 2008, serves as an instructor for the Automotive Technology Academy and chair of the Transportation Programs department. Brown, a former lead technician with industry experience, said his goal was to become a Young Automotive Education Systems school, which would include receiving support from local trade partners, dealerships, direct manufacturers and tire chains. He walked into Ed Morse Delray Toyota in 2018 to deliver a brochure about his program and what they were trying to accomplish. He had the opportunity to meet directly with a fixed operations manager and created a relationship with the dealership for future conversations. Brown said he was able to implement the partnership with Ed Morse starting in 2020.
“It puts us at the top of area schools primarily because we have a partnership with Ed Morse,” Brown said. “We are connected to a partner that has the latest and greatest technology. Students can access and take advantage of other areas besides automotive. They promote themselves internally and I love that.”
SouthTech Automotive Academy alumnus Kevin Menjivar received a part-time job with Ed Morse a year before graduating from SouthTech in 2019. He started as an apprentice and is currently a line technician at Ed Morse Delray Toyota.
“SouthTech was a starting point for me and we had amazing professors,” he said. “It’s where I was able to start with the basics. I learned a lot and have evolved. It is important to put in the effort and work hard to move up the ranks faster.”
Menjívar said he is passionate about his work and is taking courses to pass modules and achieve the highest level of certification, which is a master’s degree diagnosis.
“I like to work with my hands and fix something.” he said. “I have learned a lot and have received support from management. “I want to continue getting certifications and achieve more.”
Juan Hernandez, who participated in the collision academy at SouthTech, graduated in 2021. He had the opportunity to get a job with Ed Morse during his senior year of high school. He is currently an automobile painter at Ed Morse Cadillac Delray Beach.
“I gained experience at SouthTech,” he said. “For me it was a starting point. Now I get paid for what I love to do. My coworkers are very helpful and my managers are very understanding. “It’s allowing me to live a good life.”
Armando Dávila, who serves as service director for Ed Morse Cadillac Delray Beach, said SouthTech helps students interested in opportunities to obtain employment in the automotive industry.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to be a part of a program like this,” he said. “Now I can see the younger generation having this experience. This is very important for the future of our industry. We need more people. It’s great to see them start. Then we can help teach them more and they will continue to grow.”
Brown said he is looking to organize a field trip for his students to take an interactive tour of an Ed Morse dealership.
“Students at our academy have opportunities to advance in their company,” he said. “Ed Morse sees the value and understands the end product of bringing someone on board.”