Hazel Park’s Chrysler School-to-Work Program: Teaches Students Valuable Life Skills

Hazel Park’s Chrysler School-to-Work Program: Teaches Students Valuable Life Skills

THE CHRYSLER SCHOOL-TO-WORK PROGRAM was developed in collaboration with the Hazel Park Promise Zone, UAWChrysler and Hazel Park schools. It’s a two-year program offering students an opportunity to attend hands-on classes outside at the UAW training site off of 9 Mile Rd. in Warren. Students who enroll and are offered a spot have an opportunity to get the same exposure as candidates in the full-time Chrysler program. They spend part of their day at Hazel Park High School (HPHS) and part of their day off-campus.

“All sophomores [at HPHS and Hazel Park Alternative High School] are invited to attend a field trip in the spring of each school year to tour the facility and hear what the program is all about,” said Chris Benedetto, Wood Technology Instructor and School to Work Liaison. “Afterwards, students interested in attending are required to fill out an application provided by UAW-Chrysler World Class Manufacturing Academy and must write an essay as to why they want to be part of the program. GPA, attendance, and previous behavior are only minor contributors. Parents have to attend an orientation and have documents signed and notarized.”

Once a completed, valid application is received by the company, UAW-Chrysler’s staff begins scheduling interviews for each interested student, and these are held at the high school. Typically, there are four to six representatives present to conduct the interview sessions. Students selected by the staff to participate are contacted fairly quickly after the completion of the interview process.

“Sometime within the following week or two, UAWChrysler staff will determine which 20 students they will accept into the program for the following school year,” Benedetto explained. “Students are notified via a letter delivered to the school.”

Once selected, both juniors and seniors attend classes at the high school in the morning according to their normal schedule. Then a bus picks them up promptly at 11:25 A.M. to spend the remainder of their day off campus.

AT THE UAW-CHRYSLER SCHOOL, STUDENTS ARE SEPARATED BY GRADE LEVEL and escorted to their respective classrooms. The juniors spend the majority of their day in a traditional classroom setting learning life skills critical to any career, such as health and fitness, problem-solving, conflict resolution, punctuality, public speaking, personal hygiene, resume writing, interviewing skills, effective communication, diversity training, and general etiquette. Academically, they also learn labor history and labor law, civil rights, lean processes, the history of the auto industry, and pre-algebra. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for their senior year, which is more in-depth and includes hands-on opportunities.

Those who make it through this first year and continue in the program during their senior year spend almost equal time in both a classroom and workshop setting and experience each trade for approximately six weeks. Trades include welding, carpentry, machine shop, sheet metal fabrication, pipefitting (plumbing), electrical, electronics, robotics, pneumatics, hydraulics, machine repair, and rigging (crane operation). The major academic components that are also incorporated are math (algebra and trigonometry) and science. Classes conclude at 2:20 P.M., the students board a bus at 2:25 P.M., and they return to HPHS to finish out their day.

The School to Work program has proven to be both challenging and rewarding, and the skills students learn come in handy long after graduation. The credentials they acquire can be used to be placed at UAW-Chrysler or at many other companies. And, since there is currently a shortage of qualified automotive workers with a general knowledge of behind-the-scenes manufacturing processes, Hazel Park’s program offers a unique opportunity for employers to seek out the next generation of those interested in the automotive trade, while preparing students for a future in just about any field.