The Hawaiʻi High School Auto Academy held a recognition ceremony on July 13 for the 15 students who completed the summer program at Honolulu Community College. The Auto Academy is a six-week long, intensive program that combines an internship at the Cutter Group auto facilities in the mornings with classes at Honolulu’s Automotive Mechanics Technology facility in the afternoons.

Student Charles Arneson says the experience really opened his eyes. “I get to work on real cars, work at a real dealership, get really good hands on experience and learn what the trade is like and learn just what it is to be an automotive technician and follow the best,” said Arneson. “It’s really good.“

Arneson says he’s been asked to apply at Cutter and is seriously considering a career in the automotive field. Fellow student Dylan Bodnar is not so sure.

“I was real eager about it, being in that field, and I was all for it,” said Bodnar. “But now I am kind of reconsidering. I don’t know if want to go that way,” said Bodnar. “It’s really opened my eyes to a lot of other things. I definitely plan on going to school for another four years. Getting something else. Bettering myself in education.“

Honolulu Community College Chancellor Erika Lacro says both students are examples of how successful the program is.

“It doesn’t matter what they go into, whether they choose to do automotive, one of the other fields that we have, or any other area, they learned the real life skills of showing up on time and being ready to go to work and that’s what’s so important,” said Lacro.

Cutter Group officials were on hand for the recognition ceremony, which marked the completion of the program. The Cutter Group says their industry is one of the few that is constantly scrambling to find good, qualified employees.

“Through this program and through the training, these kids come out after two years of diligence and they are available for hire. They staff our shops and do a great job,” said Terry Bennet of the Cutter Group. “And they do a great job because we’ve had our hands on them before graduating so it’s a nice circle.”

Helping young people find jobs is why First Hawaiian Bank has been such a huge supporter. The bank presented a check for $22,500 at the recognition ceremony to fund the auto academy through 2015. First Hawaiian has given a total of $125,000 to the program.

“That’s what we really like about the program. Partnering with the industry, we can help people train in a profession if they choose to pursue it, that will lead to a career,” said First Hawaiian President and CEO Bob Harrison. “We are very committed to the program and if it grows, I hope they ask us, we’d like to help to continue to support it.”

The Hawaiʻi High School Auto Academy is in its ninth year and the other key partners are the Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools.

This year’s group of students include kids from ʻAiea, Farrington, McKinley and Waipahu high schools and Kamehameha Schools. Fourteen of the participants just graduated from high school and one of the students will be a senior in high school.

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  1. Congratulations to the 15 graduates! I hope they all find a satisfying career. I hope you can have funding to continue this program for many years to come.

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