Auto Service Tech Student Benefits from Hands-On Internship During Pandemic Shutdown

With Albemarle County Public Schools’ operating virtually this school year, one Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) student has been able to continue his hands-on learning for the last seven months. Albemarle High School student Tyler Morris, an Automotive Service Technology II student, has been working as an intern at Malloy Ford for the last 12 months. When schools unexpectedly went virtual in March due to COVID-19 concerns, Morris was already interning at Malloy Ford for half of the day, earning high school credit through his on-the-job training. Morris says, “Since the Coronavirus stuff hit, it has been helpful to have all hands-on learning. I have been learning a lot more because I have been in the shop. I didn’t have to read a book to learn; I could practice in the shop.”

While his classmates have been doing work on their laptops, Morris has been growing his technical skills while earning money, transitioning from part-time to full-time during the school shut down and over the summer. Now that he is a senior and school has resumed virtually, he is working at Malloy from 7:30-12:00 and doing his Albemarle High School classes through Zoom in the Malloy breakroom in the afternoons.  Malloy Ford Service Director Glen Beachy calls this partnership with Morris and CATEC a “win-win-win” situation. He says that investing in interns is “investing in our future and we hope to get a long-term return. There are so many of us that will be approaching retirement age and we need students to replace us.”

 Automotive Service Technology Instructor Matt Richardson saw early in the 2019-2020 school year that Morris, as an Automotive Service Technology I student, worked well with his hands and would benefit from apprenticing in a shop. Richardson says, “Tyler is one of the better hands-on students I’ve had. He doesn’t want to sit around. An internship is a perfect fit for someone like him.” Morris says he comes from a family that values hands-on work and that he has always “had a knack for wanting to help my dad work on stuff.” Through CATEC’s partnership with Malloy, Richardson sends students to the shop and knows they will have the benefit of not only learning hands-on technical skills, but also being mentored by a skilled and dedicated community.

Malloy Ford Shop Foreman Terry Sauvie, a 1996 CATEC graduate, has worked with interns for years. He identifies drive as a major factor for a successful intern. He says, “Everything else is teachable.” Interns are at first put with a senior technician to learn by shadowing and helping. Then interns are expected to dive in by setting lifts, performing oil changes, and rotating tires, all things CATEC students come into the shop knowing how to do. Of Morris, Sauvie says, “His desire to want to learn sets him apart. He asks questions all the time. He asks when he can start going to school to learn more. He shows up on time and is always growing and absorbing. The lightbulbs keep going off in his head. Then he applies what he learns to the job.” Morris has only missed two days of work in 12 months, in addition to having perfect attendance at CATEC.

Morris says getting to know everyone in the shop when he started was challenging. But with a year of experience working with the shop technicians, he now looks forward to continuing working with them and learning more skills in the shop. He says he likes learning and trying new things. His time interning will give him at least one year of employment with Malloy. He will be eligible for health care benefits, a full retirement package, a week of paid vacation, and opportunities to continue his education, which Malloy emphasizes is important. Sauvie says, “If you’re not training, you’re not learning. This field is always changing. There are new models coming out and you have to be trained on them each time. The industry is evolving and continuous education is necessary.”

Morris’s successful transition to Malloy is another example of CATEC’s strong relationship with its business partners. Malloy supports CATEC through its Ford Automotive Career Exploration Program. This online training supplements students’ academic learning, giving students the opportunity to experience professional training. Beachy says, “As a hiring manager, it is very important for kids to have this foundation to build on. We can build on this to train them to be senior-master technicians.” Richardson says the sponsorship is important to his program because “without Malloy Ford sponsoring us, we wouldn’t have had access to the Ford training. This community partner has helped us get our foot in the door.” In 2019, Malloy donated an automotive twin post lift to the program. Richardson says the lift brings “real life experiences to students entering the industry.” In 2018, Malloy donated two complete engines on which students practice their skills taking apart the engines. Additionally, Malloy serves on the program’s Advisory Board, providing guidance for program initiatives as well as acting as SkillsUSA District judges, donating time and supplies to the competitive event.

CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.