John Marshall High School Auto Repair Program Gets Careers Into Gear

Photo by Alan Olson John Marshall High School students Ronnie Darrah, left, and Beryl Blake, right, stand with instructor Joe Wendt at the John Marshall Auto Body Shop after passing all four certification tests through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

Facing four challenging certification tests, two John Marshall High School students received certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence earlier this month.

The four tests for certification cover: painting and refinishing, structural repair, non-structural repair, and electrical/ mechanical components. Senior students Beryl Blake and Ronnie Darrah passed these four tests, with others in the class passing three or fewer of the tests, which were said by instructor Joe Wendt to be strict and difficult.

The students said relatively little on their success, though Darrah said he felt the certification could give them an edge over those who did not take the program, and were entering the workforce without the credentials.

“It kind of gives you a head start on everyone else, who doesn’t have the same opportunity in high school,” Darrah said.

“It’s important because this’ll help us with getting a job later on,” Blake added. “It took a good bit of studying.

Darrah said afterward that he was taking the class for his personal satisfaction in being able to fix his own cars, rather than pursue a career in automotives. Blake, on the other hand, said he wanted to pursue a job in auto body, and felt that his certification might give him an edge.

“It’s to help me with my own stuff, so I don’t have to pay someone else to do it down the road,” Darrah said.

The ASE certifications, Wendt said, form the basics of many specific paths in the industry, with other certifications for brand-specific vehicles becoming more commonplace.

However, the ASE forms a good basis for aspiring technicians.

“Not all vehicles are technically built to the same standards anymore … ,” he said. “They’re not easy. I worked in the industry for almost 15 years before I came here, and it still took me a couple tries (to pas the test),” he added. “And these guys got it on their first try.”

The students who passed certification tests received those certificates, as well as a patch for their class uniforms, which the students wear as part of their Simulated Workplace programs.

Wendt said the class takes in vehicles brought in by local residents interested in having their vehicles maintained and repaired, and the students work to provide cost estimates and perform some work on the vehicles. The income goes toward better outfitting the auto body shop.

“We get phone calls just like the shop down the road,” Wendt said.

“Most of the cars we service are sort of the older vehicles.”

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