Conner Brown installs an oil pressure gauge during auto tech class at Fitzgerald High School Nov. 20. The school recently received a $20,000 grant from Ingersoll Rand. BELOW: Auto tech student Mahir Ahmed practices using a wheel alignment system.

Conner Brown installs an oil pressure gauge during auto tech class at Fitzgerald High School Nov. 20. The school recently received a $20,000 grant from Ingersoll Rand. BELOW: Auto tech student Mahir Ahmed practices using a wheel alignment system.

Photo by Sean Work


FHS auto program receives grant

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 3, 2018

WARREN — The auto tech students at Fitzgerald High School learning how to work on brakes, steering, suspension and more will receive a boost this school year.

The program recently received a $20,000 grant from Ingersoll Rand, a global company headquartered in Davidson, North Carolina, that produces power tools, compressed air and gas systems, and fluid management systems.

Ingersoll Rand distributed a total of $120,000 to five high schools nationwide where automotive vocational programs are offered this school year. The grant is part of Ingersoll Rand’s Real Tools for Schools high school program.

FHS, one of the five schools chosen, is using the $20,000 grant to purchase 30 new computers and software to replace outdated equipment. FHS automotive instructor Ralph Romain was pleased to receive the grant and the new equipment, which will go a long way with the students.

The auto students also were excited to hear that the program will receive new equipment. Romain said there was an application process involved when applying for the grant.

The FHS auto program is a three-year program, open to 10th- through 12th-grade students, and is part of the Southwest Macomb Technical Education Consortium, or SMTEC, which is a partnership between the Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke and Warren Woods school districts to provide career technical education.

The program includes classroom work and also has a service station. Students study electrical, automatic transmission, manual transmission, engine performance and overhaul, heating and cooling, and more. They also learn how to properly read and write work orders. By their senior year, the students work on cars in the service area that belong to district staff and community members.

While some students enter the program with a basic understanding of working under the hood of a car, other students come to class the first time with no previous experience. Some students who finish the program find work at dealerships and mechanic garages after finishing high school.

Ingersoll Rand developed the Real Tools for Schools high school program in an effort to support career technical education and attract potential employees in the future. Since 2015, Real Tools for Schools has contributed $620,000 in total grant funding to 50 participating schools, which in turn has benefited more than 5,000 students nationwide. Educators use the funding to invest in diagnostic equipment, welding machines, laptop computers, paint stations, car lifts, work benches, storage cabinets, alignment equipment, drill presses, field trips, and training and development.

Austin Lieb, vice president of product management at Ingersoll Rand Power Tools, said one thing that has changed over the years in the automotive field is that cars are now computerized.

In addition to helping the students financially, Ingersoll Rand Power Tools employees volunteer their time by visiting high schools to provide seminars, hands-on training and learning enrichment experiences for students enrolled in automotive technician programs. Ingersoll Rand employees talk with students to give them an idea of what types of careers are available in the automotive field.

“We try to maintain relationships,” Lieb said, adding that “it’s a great feeling” when the company can assist a school. “We take a lot of pride in this program.”

The closest Ingersoll Rand facility to FHS is located in Madison Heights, which benefited the school’s auto program. According to Lieb, when choosing schools that receive grant money, the company tries “to select schools where our employees live and work.”