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The Mechanics of Learning
Nurturing the auto tech industry's local youth
Photo taken by Stephen Peterson
The following article was written by Karen Schaffner of the Sierra Vista Herald.

This is the first of several articles positioned to track the progress of the Automotive programs at Buena High School and Cochise College, and the degree to which the knowledge, skills and tools the students cultivate, translate into the real world automotive experience.

We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we've enjoyed working with all the participants involved in this movement.

Thank you to Jacqui Clay, Ron Bosley, James Krause, Alex Wolf, Robert Bounds and whoever else we may have missed who played a part in helping this endeavor take off.

We especially would like to extend our gratitude to those who provided us with resources to begin Buena's auto & collision facility's renovation. 

Enjoy a few of our "before shots" prior to any renovations. The next time you see the facility, it'll likely be totally updated!
Article written by Karen Schaffner of the Sierra Vista Herald
Annmarie Aristigue (left) & Danny Aristigue (right)
About two years ago, business owner Annmarie Aristigue had a problem.

She and her husband, Danny, own Arizona Auto and Radiator Repair on Fry Boulevard and they simply could not find qualified technicians to hire.
“About two years ago when we were looking to transfer to this new location, we were going through a challenging phase when we were having a difficult time finding help,” she said.

“We went through multiple technicians; we went through multiple service advisers and my husband and I were like, ‘What can we do to try and help make a difference for even ourselves?’”
Front entrance of Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair Shop
Enter the automotive programs at Buena High School and Cochise College.
Buena Auto Instructor Robert Bounds
Several local businesses, including Petit’s Auto Care among others, have formed an advisory committee and teamed with the schools to produce technicians who will continue to invest in the community of Sierra Vista, who will stay and raise their families here.
To do that, the Aristigues' believe they first have to change how people feel about their local mechanics. Gone are the days of the shade tree mechanic.
Because just about every car today’s mechanics are likely to touch are computerized, today’s mechanics are true technicians.
“The automotive industry is changing to where it’s not just going to be that low-paid profession,” she said. “[The pay is] going to go up based on the fact that electronics are much more complicated and the scan tools are more expensive and therefore fees are going to go up. We need these children to get educated, then go on to Cochise College and, hopefully, stay in our community, where we can offer them a good, well-paid job. We want to keep them here. We want to pay them well.”
To that end, Aristigue would like to see the Buena program brought up to date.
“Almost every car you touch needs a scan tool,” she said. “We don’t even have a proper scan tool at Buena currently, so that’s where we’re moving, getting Buena up to par, getting them set because they can’t even teach the right standard without the proper tool.”
A Buena High School student preps a trunk lid for painting in the Auto Collision Program, which is part of the Career and Technical Education program at Buena. Local automotive industry leaders and automotive instructors at Cochise College have formed an advisory committee to help bring the automotive program at Buena up to date.
Teachers Robert Bounds and Alex Wolf head up the automotive program at Buena, which is part of the Career and Technical Education program. They have their hands full with more than 200 students in the three-year program. The first year is focused on the basics, like how an engine works and how to use a Phillips-head screwdriver or a socket wrench. Then students may branch out into either the mechanical aspects or the body work.
“A beginning student would actually start out in either one of the classrooms. We teach them what’s called basic auto for their first year and then they have the option to split off into either side of the program,” Bounds said. “Automotive technologies or automotive collision.”

“We are in the process of updating, which, hopefully, will come soon,” Wolf said. “For right now we manage with what we have.”
During the summer, the shop was considered a “live shop,” in which the students worked on faculty cars and other CTE cars. There are a couple of cars that auto students have won in competitions that are used to teach the skills and principles of auto mechanics and bodywork, including a 1996 Cobra that came with only a handful of miles. It’s waiting for its paint job to be completed.
But it’s really the very basics that the staff at Cochise College want the students from Buena to come in with.
“Once you get them too much further than (hand-tool use) they begin to pick up bad habits,” said Ron Bosley, one of Cochise’s instructors.
Both he and fellow Cochise instructor James Krause are working on the team that is helping Buena improve the program and facilities. They are concerned, Bosley said, about the amount of broken tools Buena has, especially when the shop has the potential for such good work.
For example, Buena has a dynamometer, a machine that measures the power of a car, but it’s broken and has been broken for a few years now. Only one other shop in the city has one of those, according to Bosley. There’s also a room to paint cars which was never completed and has been sitting for three years. They believe it will actually go live this year.
Still, with the help of the community partners, there is hope of getting Buena’s shop up to date.
“The program is moving forward and that’s what we want,” Bosley said. “I would like to see a significant change to the program within two years. (We want to) get them started in high school, then get them into Cochise, then out into industry.”
We brought the idea for this article to the Herald with the intention of shedding light on the value the automotive industry brings to local communities. We also wanted to point out the changes occurring in the Automotive Industry, shifting away from what was once-perceived as a grease monkey profession, to a highly refined, technically intense craft that can bring pride, fulfillment and good pay to its practitioners.
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