Recent History – 1999
June 1, 1999
By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
The smell of engine oil wafts through the air as several young mechanics labour over disassembled vehicle parts on a bench. Nearby a truck waits on a hoist and an engine is up on blocks. If it wasn’t for the homework list on the blackboard, it would look just like a regular automotive shop.
The mechanics are students and part of an automotive service technician program run by the British Columbia Institute of Technology in conjunction with School District 59 at South Peace Secondary School.
Using hands on training the kids learn what the real world is all about when it comes to servicing and repairing vehicles, says BCIT instructor Gary Remenyk, who started teaching the program in Dawson Creek four years ago.
“It gives the students a chance to see what goes on in a real shop,” says Remenyk, pointing out the state of the art equipment such as scanners, an engine analyzer and a reception area where students learn to fill out and follow work orders. Once students have learned the basics, Remenyk holds clinics where the kids try out their skills on customers from the community, usually parents or friends.
Pouce Coupe car buff Peter Kut definitely liked what he saw. “I have to commend them for a job well done,” he says of the class which worked on the engine and front-end of his 1953 Ford one-ton.
“It was an excellent job,” he says. “They were very conscientious.”
A program giving kids real-world skills is exactly what’s needed, he adds. “That’s what education is all about.”
The co-operative program holds a maximum of 16 students and thirteen are enrolled this year, earning credits towards high school graduation as well as fulfilling the first year requirements for the two-year program at BCIT.
However, Remenyk emphasizes, with instruction in physics, drafting and engineering, it’s not a class where academics takes a back seat. While students in the two-semester course don’t have to pay tuition or materials fees, the college-level learning can be tough.
“The students for the most part handle it fairly well,” Remenyk says. “The academics is a very strong component to this program and I find that for the kids, once they’ve successfully completed this, it helps them in some of their other courses as well.”
Grade 12 student Jamie Doerksen finished the program in February, but still comes back to work on the class project, the rebuilding of a 1978 Monza Spider race car.
“It’s tough,” he agrees, “but if you do your homework, it’s pretty good.”
C.J. Mattson is in his first semester of the course and says he appreciates the hands-on instruction given in the program.
“It’s fun,” the Grade 11 student says. “It’s helped me get a job here already this summer.” Mattson is working at Kal Tire, using skills in tire balancing and repair which he learned at school.
He would definitely recommend the program to others, he says. “If your future’s in automotives it’s the place to be.”
Maybe so, says Remenyk, but “just because a student enrolls in this program it doesn’t mean they’re going on to become an auto technician.” The whole point, he says is to give kids skills they can use anywhere as well as prepare them for university entrance.
“It’s opening up doors for the kids,” he says.