Auto shop combines STEM learning with vocational education
- Though access to school-based auto shops has declined over the past three decades, these classes have great potential for hands-on learning of science, technology, engineering and math in general curriculum studies as well as offering practical skills, EdSource reports.
- With the California Employment Development Department saying the auto repair job market is expected to grow by about 8.5 % by 2024 and experienced auto mechanics have the potential to earn at least $60,000 a year, auto shops also provide a great career alternative for students.
- Cost is the major consideration for school districts wishing to expand these programs, because modern auto shops require computers, scanners and software, in addition to the basic auto shop equipment and tools. Teachers for the classes are also hard to find because of their earning potential elsewhere.
Most educators realize that the most effective way to teach a subject is through hands-on learning in a situation that helps students see the relevance of the material to their lives. In many ways, modern auto shop classes offer this because the practical knowledge is valuable to every student who plans to own a car. This valuable information may also draw some students to a greater understanding of the complex STEM knowledge needed to build a modern automobile and may lead others to a lucrative career. The expansion of the “new shop class” idea is part of a trend that connects the needs of the workplace with general education.
A recent survey conducted by the Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation revealed that most students prefer to learn this way. “Students on STEM: More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences” reveals that students want more tangible learning opportunities and that “common teaching methods, such as teaching from the textbook, are less engaging than hands-on learning methods.” The challenge, of course, is that such methods are often more costly and harder to implement, especially in a group setting.
In most school districts, the option of a fully equipped shop class in every high school is not feasible. However, many school districts either have or are considering a vocational high school that can justify the costs of such programs and be used collaboratively with other schools in the district to provide at least some exposure to hands-on learning. Mobile learning labs that move from school to school may also provide wider exposure, and connecting with community colleges that offer automotive programs is another option. With the need for future automotive workers, schools in some areas may be able to convince local businesses to provide grants for auto shops. For students who wish for a more intensive training experience than school district facilities allow, apprenticeships may be the answer.