Ford dealership gives cars and careers to KTEC

Automotive students love to take things apart and put them back together again, so students at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus in Rathdrum were thrilled Tuesday when KTEC received a donation of two 2014 Ford vehicles.

“That one sounds like it has a little rattle,” said one student as he hit the gas while another student sat in the driver’s seat.

Donated by Ford Motor Company and Coeur d’Alene dealership Mike White Ford, the Ford Fiesta and Focus are the highest caliber donations KTEC has received to date, said KTEC Director Colby Mattilla, totaling approximately $20,000 .

Representatives from Ford Motor Company, including Technical Talent Referral Specialist Joe Bana, came to support and encourage the students in their careers.

“We’ve done a lot of collaborative work with KTEC,” said Chelsea White, service manager for Mike White Ford. “We had quite a few students who were great additions to our team.”

The dealership has nine employees in its service department appointed as KTEC graduates.

Mattila and the KTEC Board of Directors have developed strong relationships with Ford Motor Company and Mike White Ford through Ford’s corporate training program, Automotive Career Exploration, or ACE.

ACE takes Ford Motor Company’s in-house training program used to train its mechanics and transforms it into a curriculum for local trade schools.

Out of 645 national participating schools, KTEC ranked first with 2,100 ACE courses completed.

KTEC instructors like Jack Neal have incorporated the curriculum into the structure of their lessons to give students essential skills that transfer to other car brands and to prepare students for jobs in the automotive industry.

“I wanted to fill in the gaps that I felt were missing when I went through this program…” Neal said. “It’s tremendous the opportunities these kids have that I didn’t have when I came here.”

Mattila and instructors like Neal are collaborating with Mike White Ford Service Director Ed Baker to develop and grow a strong workforce for the future.

“This industry has been my life since I got into it,” Baker said.

In high school, he said, he was told he was going to college, but he wanted to go to trade school.

Baker was instrumental in working with both KTEC and Ford Motor Company to build the ACE program within the school. He organized engine donations to get better resources and support from Ford, and used his connections to build his community.

Donations from Ford Motor Company and Mike White Ford will remain in the school shop long-term as a teaching tool for the program’s students, and the vehicles have been renamed so they never return to the road.

Typically, KTEC repairs and sells donations of older vehicles to pay for student resources, including new and advanced instruments for the lab, or to cover travel expenses to competitions.

They take donations of broken vehicles, fix them up and sell them for a slight profit to buy bonus materials, based on industry demand.

Because these cars are of such high quality and much newer than other donations, the lab will retain them for future classes.

Vehicles will be repaired, torn down, rebuilt and have the ability to impact and educate hundreds of students.

Chelsea White said her family is happy to give back to the community with these donations and contribute to the work of KTEC.

“We certainly have ulterior motives,” White said. “It’s clear to improve our organization and encourage students to be better prepared to join the workforce.”

Mike White Ford provides job shadowing to students hand-picked by instructors and often hires students from them.

Ashton Fowler was hired from a shadow position at Mike White Ford in 2019 when he graduated from KTEC.

“There are a lot of people that I know in my family that have not been able to work at their jobs,” Fowler said. “But after all that I was still working, I still had a place there. I love it, Mike really takes good care of us.”

Fowler attended the car donation on his day off to support the students and the automotive program.

“There aren’t as many young people feeding into the tech space,” White said.

She sees a gap in the job supply, so her company is trying to develop its own employees to be competitive.

“It’s a pleasure to look back at the people we’ve hired who have become very successful,” White said.

Earlier this year, 100% of the senior class graduated from the program with work already lined up. The 186 students received an average of four job offers per student.

Baker said it’s an opportunity for them to help young members of the workforce grow and become successful.

“Our communities don’t survive without merchants,” he said.