The Osseo High School automotive program is the best of the best. It is the first in the country to receive a Maintenance and Light Repair (MLR) certification for accuracy from the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF, pronounced “Nate-F”). This means students can complete a rigorous training course, and if they pass the final test, complete the first step to obtaining a job in the automotive field.
To become certified, students must complete a two-year program (540 total hours) that includes a beginner and an advanced course. “The kids do all the things you would expect a professional mechanic to do,” says automotive instructor Matt Beukema.
One of the key components to the program is an internship at a local dealership or auto shop. By taking part, the students leave high school already advanced in their training beyond what a normal auto program teaches.
“They can get a job [straight out of training], but the idea is that they would go on for additional schooling,” Beukema says. “When they finish here, they get 18 credits at Hennepin Technical College.”
The program sets students on a specific career path. Most, if not all, students who complete the advanced course plan on a career in the automotive industry. John Anderson, who graduated in spring 2014, is one of those students.
“I was very thankful for the course because it is right up my alley,” Anderson says. “I think everybody should take a class even if you don’t want to do automotive work, just [to learn] the basics like changing the oil or a tire.”
Anderson’s goal is to become a master certified technician, which is the highest level in the industry. By starting with a NATEF certified program, he has taken a solid step toward that goal. He now plans to pursue training outside the classroom, possibly at a Ford or BMW dealership, to get real world experience. Oftentimes, a company will pay for continuing education when it is geared specifically toward their make of vehicle.
While many students plan to make a career of working on automobiles, some opt to take only the beginner’s course. This means they don’t receive a certification, but have a basic understanding of cars.
Courtney Peterson, the only girl in the automotive course, took the intro class because she wanted to learn more about cars. Peterson did not want to rely on other people or get tricked by a mechanic who claims something needs to be fixed when it doesn’t. She has found the class to be invaluable. “When I needed a new water pump, [Beukema] showed what was causing it and how to tell. A lot of people don’t know how to do that and it’s good to know, especially for girls.”
Peterson likes the idea of being a female who works on cars. Although she is unsure if she will continue to pursue an automotive education, she encourages all females to take a class and get educated.
Whether it’s a student like Anderson, working toward his career, or one like Peterson, who just wants a more basic understanding, this program is unique in allowing students to train and get a head start in the automotive industry.
You can help an Osseo High School automotive student by donating your car. For more info, visit district279.org/osh/images/stories/OSH/DOC/donate_your_car.pdf