He said the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant will have robots that paint most of the vehicles, but every auto production plant has an onsite area that repaints about 5 percent of vehicles that robots mess up.
“This is where I want this program to be a pipeline for the Mazda Toyota plant,” Winton said.
Chris Mason, a senior at Brewer, said he enrolled in the program this year to “get skills I’ll need to land a good job” when he graduates in May.
“I’ve learned a lot, and this will help,” he said Jan. 14 as he prepared to paint a car door.
When he took over the program eight years ago, Winton said he polled 15 to 20 Morgan County auto body shops about what they needed from high school graduates.
He said they wanted students with entry-level skills, meaning they need to know how to do things such as car door disassembly, painting prep, sanding and parts removal.
“The shops will provide specialized training,” Winton said.
Body shop pay can range from $14 per hour for entry-level employees to $28 for workers with experience.
Childers and Winton said students are not limited to just preparing and painting vehicles. Students in the program recently repainted some light fixtures that are in the International Space Station.
Both Childers and Winston said a school that is in NASA’s HUNCH (High schools United with NASA to Create Hardware) program designed and built the fixtures, but they were painted by Morgan County students.
“We want to make sure these students are not just exposed to cars and trucks,” Childers said. “Somebody has to paint the rockets and parts for the rockets. They can be trained here at our technology park.”
Wilson said the CLAS Banner School program was created in 2001 to recognize model school programs, and the auto body collision repair program in Morgan County was selected from 160 entries.