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Hersey student in the fast lane to success through apprenticeship

Published January 23, 2023

Abraham Lopez is the latest in a long line of District 214 students to pursue their career interest at Arlington Heights Ford.

The John Hersey High School student became an apprentice auto technician at Arlington Heights Ford last summer. Lopez graduated a semester early and now is working full time at the dealership, while working on his industry training and certification.

The Ford dealership has partnered with District 214 for years, offering students opportunities to become interns in its service department. Lopez is the first paid apprentice. Apprentices at Arlington Heights Ford work under the supervision of a service technician—first doing oil changes and routine maintenance on the dealership’s quick lube line before moving on to larger repairs and eventually working on their own.

Lopez connected with Arlington Heights Ford through the District 214 apprenticeship program, now in its fourth year. The apprenticeship program offers students a chance to “learn and earn,” working at paid jobs while also taking regular high school classes as well as courses in their chosen career field. The program offers apprentice positions within the District, as well as with several business partners in the community—like Arlington Heights Ford.

There is a critical and growing shortage of technicians in the automotive industry. Jerry Hood, service manager at Arlington Heights Ford, said Ford estimates that by 2030, the company’s U.S. dealership network will be 70,000 technicians short of needed capacity. That translates into expanded job opportunities and solid starting pay for entry-level trained technicians. Hood said once technicians graduate from the Ford technician training program, they start at $48 an hour at his dealership—“and we pay for every bit of the training,” he said. Hood even tries to start his new technicians with a partially loaded toolbox, which is often a big expense for young auto techs.

Hood said apprentices like Lopez are a critical part of solving the industry’s technician shortage. “He’s an excellent student. If everyone had Abe’s goals and work ethic, we’d be in great shape,” Hood said.

Jim Van Bladel, Lopez’s auto tech teacher at Hersey, said, “Abe was enrolled in automotive technology for four years at Hersey. He started his apprenticeship over the summer and graduated early to work full time while attending a tech school to earn his certifications as quickly as possible to become a master tech. I have no doubt that Abe will finish his training and be one of the most productive techs at Arlington Heights Ford.”