Vocational open house slated at Fairmont High School

FAIRMONT — There will be a vocational open house from 5-7 p.m. Monday at Fairmont High School. It will provide the community with an opportunity to tour the new Martin County Automotive Academy.

The school’s other vocational programs — an agriculture academy, welding academy, and family and consumer science program — also will be showcased.

The Martin County Automotive Academy will be held on Saturday mornings, beginning Jan. 4. The class is open to area students in grades 9-12 for free, as well as adults for a fee of $250. The class will be capped at 20 students, with first preference given to high school students, who will earn a credit.

The 60-hour introductory course will teach essential automotive repair skills. It will be taught by Fairmont’s automotive technology and mechatronics instructor, Bob Bonin.

“The whole purpose of the open house is to showcase all of the academies we have in the vocational area, and to show students, parents and the community how we tie education into careers,” he said.

Bonin said they want parents to see what students do in vocational classes. Students will lead tours through the classrooms and talk about equipment and projects.

The district has been trying to help tackle the skilled worker shortage that affects not only this region but the whole nation. Fairmont Area Schools was given a $50,000 matching grant from LYFT pathways to use toward the automotive academy. Several local businesses will work as mentors for students in the program.

Fairmont Superintendent Joe Brown said the purpose of the event is really twofold.

“It’s kind of a thank you to the local businesses we’re working with and to acknowledge the fact that we have all of these wonderful collaborations,” he said. “With all of the negative news coming out of the Fairmont city, the positive side is that the private sector and the school district are working very closely in a collaborative spirit. We’re trying to train workers for them and they’re helping us out with equipment and expertise.”

Brown stressed that the private and public sectors need to work closely together to achieve shared goals.

“You’re not to going to find another school that’s doing what we’re doing,” Brown said.

Local businesses that will be in attendance include: Hawkins Chevrolet, Avery Weigh-Tronix, Zierke Built Manufacturing, Miller-Sellner, Kahler Automation and Kibble Equipment.

Colleges in attendance will include: MN West, with instructors specializing in welding and auto; South Central College, with instructors specializing in auto collision; Iowa Lakes Community College, with instructors specializing in carpentry and auto repair; Riverland Community College, with instructors in construction, automotive and agriculture; and Minnesota State-Mankato.

“The colleges that are coming are not just coming to recruit kids but to show the kids what they can do once they leave school,” Brown noted. “You don’t see technical colleges recruiting like you see four-year colleges recruiting athletes. But really this is an opportunity for them to talk to our students directly.”

Students interested in the automotive academy may contact Bonin at bbonin@fairmont.k12.mn.us. Adults can sign up through the CER office at (507) 235-3141.