Firestone Mechanics’ Program Designed to Fill a Gap, Officials Say

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Maplewood High in Nashville is the only school in the nation with its own Firestone Service Center, and company officials say they had a constructive purpose in mind when they created it.

Firestone spokeswoman Emily Weaver addressed Firestone’s intentions in an email Friday with The Tennessee Star.

“One of the biggest challenges facing today’s workforce is the technical skills gap, partly created by a lack of accessible education opportunities for youth. To combat this challenge, Bridgestone Americas and Firestone Complete Auto Care are currently creating new pathways for students to explore automotive career paths through the centers at Maplewood High School in Nashville and East High School Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio.”

“With these institutions, Bridgestone and Firestone Complete Auto Care have developed a program that allows students to acquire specialized skills through enhanced automotive curriculum and the opportunity to shadow alongside highly skilled Bridgestone and Firestone Complete Auto Care employees. The goal is to provide students with the skills they need to not only be employable, but to be prepared for their personal and professional journeys. As a part of this, Bridgestone seeks to enrich the lives of those interested in an automotive career through training programs and seminars, field trips, ACT boot camps, and ASE training and certification.”

Each of the students in the academy, Weaver went on to say, can graduate as a licensed technician, gaining the two years of experience required for certification. Maplewood helps students hone their soft skills, such as communications and problem-solving abilities, as well as think about how to build a career rather than just holding a job, she added.

“The collaboration between Maplewood High School and Bridgestone was formed with the help of the PENCIL Foundation. Similarly, the collaboration between Akron Public Schools and Bridgestone was formed with the help of United Way of Summit County. These programs are two of the many ways Bridgestone gives back to the communities it serves through the People Priority Area of Our Way to Serve, the company’s corporate social responsibility commitment,” Weaver said.

“The programs at Maplewood and East High School are the first of their kind for Bridgestone Americas in the United States. Maplewood High School is the first fully-functioning, customer-ready, full-service automotive facility completely run by high school students. There are currently dozens of Maplewood alumni working for Firestone Complete Auto Care, and Bridgestone is proud to support the community through this program.”

As The Star reported this month, this is the first such program in the world. Bridgestone officials designed the curriculum in 2015.

One student in the program, Jacob Newman, 16, described himself at one time as a “really arrogant sixth grader” who needed focus.

“Without this program, I would still probably be in trouble. I look forward to coming in here working on cars. I look forward to seeing Ms. TJ. I look forward to seeing my friends. Without that I think I’d be in trouble somewhere, somehow,” Newman said.

“I compare automotives to life in a way. We all know some things can go wrong, but it can always be repaired with time and effort. It can always be fixed. It just gets me going to know there is always some way to fix the problem.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

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