As the technician shortage grinds on, two more large dealership groups are investing in training future technicians at the high school level.

LaFontaine Automotive Group, one of Michigan’s largest dealership chains, with 28 stores and 10 collision centers, is providing tools, training and mentors to a suburban Detroit high school’s certified technician training program.

Ecorse High School plans to accept 40 students per year — half from ninth and 10th grade and the other 20 from 11th and 12 grade — who will be ready to take the ASE certifications when they complete the program. LaFontaine will host tech students at its stores this school year. Some students will be offered apprenticeships during the summer to get hands-on experience and earn money, says company spokesman Max Muncey.

Ecorse High School is the template for LaFontaine’s plan to spread the program to other Michigan schools, Muncey said. LaFontaine, which currently has 120 technician openings, believes it will be more successful at attracting and retaining techs by “growing its own,” Muncey said.

“Opportunities like this hopefully inspire students to enter into a career in automotive and see the tremendous career growth available to them,” says Dan LaFontaine Jr., who manages the fixed operations of the company’s General Motors stores.

Over the summer, GM donated two vehicles, tools and parts to Ecorse High School to help kick-start the automotive training program.

“Upon completion of the Certified Tech Program, our students will have the skill set, connections and opportunity to immediately get into the work force, hopefully with LaFontaine Automotive Group,” says Ecorse Public Schools Superintendent Josha Talison.

Automakers and dealers have been supporting high school tech training courses for years as the industry struggles to meet demand for new techs.

This year in Philadelphia, dealer Harry Faulkner pledged $1 million in equipment, tools and human resources to Father Judge High School, which broke ground this summer on its new Career Pathways Academy.

In Florida, Ed Morse Automotive Group announced a partnership with SouthTech Academy, a career and technical high school in Boynton Beach, Fla., north of Fort Lauderdale. From this alliance, the Ed Morse Automotive Technology Program will be created.

The program will give students real-word automotive knowledge and practical experience. Students will receive on-site job shadowing and training opportunities with Ed Morse’s experienced technicians. Juniors and seniors can earn the Florida Auto Dealers Association and ASE auto maintenance and light repair industry certifications.

In the past, Ed Morse Automotive Group — which has 24 dealership locations, 42 franchises and 14 automotive brands — has provided SouthTech Academy with new automotive uniforms, vehicles to work on, curriculum assistance and the latest equipment. Executives from the group will serve on the school’s advisory board and provide key industry best practices.

“We have supported this program, which continues to get better every year,” Teddy Morse, CEO of Ed Morse Automotive Group, said in a statement. “The academy produces incredible talent that is immediately ready to work at a high level in any professional automotive setting. We have many graduates currently working with us in our service departments and look forward to hiring many more.”

Timothy Brown, chair of the academy’s automotive department, said in a statement that the Morse group has “truly helped us shape our state-of-the-art automotive repair, collision and technology curriculum into being a game-changing program nationally.”

“When Ed Morse says that they have your back … they mean it,” Brown said, “and it is positively changing the lives of our students.”

By Tara