Bradley Healy, 19, removes the engine from a vehicle at Evergreen Subaru in Auburn recently. Healy is one of five Evergreen workers who graduated from the automotive program at Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

AUBURN — On a recent afternoon at Evergreen Subaru, technician Bradley Healy, 19, was looking up at the bottom of a vehicle on a lift, pulling out the engine.

Alex Allaire, 20, also works as a technician at the Auburn dealership. He’s not old enough to buy beer, but “I have a house,” he said. “I bought it at 19.”

Before getting hired, both went through Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s automotive program.

Overall, more area businesses are hiring students who have certificates in the two-year program, LRTC Director Rob Callahan said.

“They’re in demand,” Callahan said. “Many of our students have already started summer jobs. You name it, from working with electrical contractors, to credit union tellers to IT.”

LRTC automotive instructor Rusty Parker said he’s seeing an increase of hires of his students.

One large Center Street dealership has hired five; Evergreen recently hired its sixth, Parker said.

Before he hires someone who’s attended LRTC, Evergreen Service Manager Joel Arel checks references with Parker.

“So far, everybody he’s recommended has worked out excellent,” Arel said. “The thing that impresses me is their car knowledge is basic, but their work ethic is what really stands out.”

When they come out of the two-year program they understand what’s going on under the hood, he said. “They don’t open the hood and say, ‘What’s this?’ They learn quicker than a kid off the street,” he said.

Like other programs at LRTC, a student who successfully completes the automotive program can earn one or more industry certificates, enabling them to do maintenance and light repairs, tire rotations, oil changes and Maine state inspections, Parker said.

They are not full-fledged technicians.

“Not yet,” Arel said. “They’re a trainee. They help the master technician.”

If they work hard and catch on, they can eventually become a master technician, learning from senior technicians in the shop and taking courses from the Subaru’s training center in Massachusetts.

One obstacle Parker said he has to overcome with new students is the low starting pay of $9 to $10 an hour. Students can make the same or more bagging groceries, he said.

He explains that the pay improves as skills improve. It can be a hard sell to a young adult “who has to pay the bills.”

In most cases, the starting pay “doesn’t stay at $10 long typically,” Arel said.  Automotive technicians who are very good, what he called “the stars,” can make $80,000 or more a year.

Eric Verrill is another LRTC graduate working at Evergreen. After working with master technicians and taking industry courses, he’s now a flat-rate technician, which means he’s advanced and is paid by the job, not the hour.

At age 24 he is house shopping. The starting pay looks bad on paper, Verrill said. “You will struggle the first three or four years. But if you’re willing to make commitments, in the long run you make out.”

In recent years LRTC has done more outreach with employers, Callahan said, adding it’s paying off.

For years many in the community were aware of culinary skills that LRTC’s The Green Ladle teaches. Word is spreading about other programs.

The school asks professionals such as electricians and contractors to serve on advisory committees to give feedback on what LRTC is teaching.

“As part of that we ask them, ‘Would you hire them?’ Many have said yes,” Callahan said, “which is tremendous.”

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More employers are hiring students from Lewiston Regional Technical Center, Director Rob Callahan said. Evergreen Subaru of Auburn recently hired its sixth worker from LRTC’s automotive program. From left are Alex Allaire, 20; Colby Desjardins, 17; Bradley Healy, 19; Dillon Donahue, 20; Eric Verrill, 24; and Miguel Argueta Guevara, 21.

Alex Allaire, 20, works on a vehicle at Evergreen Subaru in Auburn. More companies are hiring skilled workers who have taken two-year programs at Lewiston Regional Technical Center, Director Rob Callahan said.


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