Representatives from Bridgestone Americas, Akron (Ohio) Public Schools and United Way of Summit County gathered at the Bridgestone Americas Technical Center the afternoon of Oct. 16 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Bridgestone Academy of Applied Engineering and Technology in cooperation with Firestone Complete Auto Care at Akron’s East Community Learning Center.
The partnership gives Akron students hands-on experience working with automotive technology while teaching them business practices necessary to run a retail store.
Officials from each organization spoke to a room full of students enrolled in the automotive training program.
“At Bridgestone, we know that education is critical for a sustainable society,” said Bob Lux, director of program engineering at Bridgestone. “And this partnership that we’ve developed embodies what our company’s corporate-social responsibility and overall commitment is. Bridgestone is committed to this academy, and what we want to do is be able to provide assistance to the curriculum so we can have ASE-certified students … before graduation. That’s one of our goals.”
When the program began, Akron Public Schools retrofit a portion of the automotive technology lab at East CLC in conjunction with Bridgestone, which donated materials, fixtures and point-of-sale systems. The area today includes software programs, a customer waiting area and equipment to service vehicles.
Students enrolled in the program provide limited auto maintenance services to the local community, and all revenue generated from service and sales is reinvested into the program.
“Bridgestone is pledging to volunteer at least 2,000 hours over the next three years to work with you and your teachers. It means that, as students, you are gaining real-world, relevant experience for professionals in the field,” David James, superintendent of Akron Public Schools, told students in attendance. “It is a great field to go into because there is a great need for service technicians around the country. So don’t sell yourself short. You could have a very profitable career in automotive technology,”
The collaboration between Akron Public Schools and Bridgestone was formed with the help of United Way of Summit County. In 2018, Akron Public Schools announced that United Way would serve as the link between the College and Career Academies of Akron and local businesses to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students and to strengthen the education to employment pipeline in Summit County.
“[This program] is putting your future in your hands. It’s giving each one of you the opportunity to learn a skill to develop and be marketable, to be sustainable adults in our community,” United Way of Summit County President and CEO Jim Mullen told the students. “And that is the key to any person’s future. It’s giving you the ability to be successful.”