GREAT FALLS, Mont. - The Paris Gibson Education Center Auto Shop opened its doors for students in 2006 to be 'future ready' for an automotive career. 

The impacts of the program are still felt in the community today, with 208 graduates, the program gives students the knowledge to go into the field right after high school. 

While they know everything under the hood before they walk through the doors of the ASE program, it's the skills underneath the car making the seniors stand out. 

"We're pulling the full tank out of the pick-up over here," Senior Brycen Roberts said. 

"It's more than just learning about cars. It's actually the feel of a real shop that's put together," Alumni Jake Maki said. 

Maki was one of the first graduates from the program and he is one of 142 graduates still in the automotive field. He is currently an auto technician at 15th Street Service Center. 

"The class gives like actual experiences that are real-world like. So it's something that you're going to run into in your workforce," Maki said. 

"We try and operate this program as they would a career," Automotive ASE Teacher Joe Wilkins said. 

Students learn about every operating system on a vehicle and some even bring in their own cars to work on as well. 

Lane Nuckolls, a senior at CMR is working on the interior of his truck. 

"With this color for seats and door panels and replacing the whole dash and everything," Nuckolls said. 

Senior Zach Crocker has loved cars since he was 10 years old and this class will allow him to enter the Military to be future-ready. 

Senior Tanner Showen is currently refurbishing a 1987 van with hopes to restore it for his father. 

The ASE class isn't just helping students, it's also helping the community. 

"They got advanced level training, and they're going to stay in Great Falls, and they're going to help our local economy right here," Maki said. 

All seniors are required to take Powertech, it is a one-period-semester class, usually done the sophomore year. Then, Automotive Technology which is a two-period-full year class, usually taken the junior year before they take Auto ASE at Paris Gibson. 

But then they all graduate with the national certification, Automotive Service Excellence, helping them be future-ready. 

"The community invested in this. As a return, they are getting students and workers. Our product that comes out is a trained student that can go to work in those situations or continue education," Wilkins said. 

But students don't have to necessarily have to wait until graduation to put their knowledge to work. 

"I'm working at Dave's Custom Exhaust & Muffler right now," Erica, a senior at CMR said. 

That's not the only business employing students. Carnahan's Towing in Great Falls has two students working as mechanics. 

"They have a great work ethic, they know their engines and show up every day," Owner Mel Carnahan said. 

"What we're trying to do is get them the schedule, and skills, and how to work, and work ethic, and how to clean up, and take care of the space, and also do quality work," Wilkins said. 

One of the driving forces of this program is actually the driver’s education vehicles for the school district.

"We depend on the students to service our driver's education cars every year, they are able to handle everything including a tire rotation, changing oil and servicing.  They have done a tremendous job and keep them safe for our students enrolled in driver's education," GFPS Athletic Director and Supervisor of Traffic Education Mike Henneberg said. 

Students are required to fill out work orders and bill them, and in turn, that money goes back into the program. 


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