Imagine working with aircraft mechanics behind the scenes at Air Canada to get a high school credit.
That is just one of the unique hands-on experiences some students get to have as part of Bradford District High School’s Grade 12 aviation and automotive technology class.
While not away on work experiences, the class involves intensive instruction, which includes a live service auto shop inside the school that has students doing everything from fixing brakes, changing oil, welding, doing body work, and even restoring entire cars.
“It’s nice to talk about the theory of it, (but) this puts a whole new twist on it,” said Michael Cino, who teaches the course. “They’re on time every day. You never see enthusiasm like this from these characters.”
The inside of the shop looks like a typical mechanic’s set up, with room for three vehicles and a garage door that can open to a parking lot for cars to get in and out of the building.
There is a small classroom off to one side with no desks, only chairs, so there is a meeting space and room for freshly painted car parts to dry.
There is also a back room where students, dressed in full protective gear, do the painting with professional-grade paint they mix themselves. A TV in the main shop area shows a live feed from the paint room so Cino and other students can watch.
The class focuses on “live work,” said Cino, who was a licensed mechanic and received pilot training before he started teaching.
“The reason I do it is because when I went to high school I didn’t really get to see anything (like this),” he said. “These kinds of experiences you can’t even get in co-op.”
Eight of the students got to do the Air Canada work experience between April 29 to May 2. They each did four overnight shifts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and got to job shadow aircraft mechanics.
Although none of them were allowed to actually do any work on the airplanes for liability reasons, they got a first-hand look at how mechanics inspect the airplanes, check for cracks, repair engines, and work on the wings, joints and landing gear.
“It was very interesting. We all learned something,” said student Lucas Whiteside. “It’s not a demanding job. It’s very laidback compared to an auto shop.”
Added classmate Kurtis Constable: “We were right there beside the engine (seeing) everything.”
The experience has inspired some of the students to consider aircraft mechanic as a future career, while others want to work on cars, tractors, tractor-trailers, or be a heavy equipment operator.
Next up for the students is a trip to Canadian Forces Base Borden to get a look at some of the mechanical aspects of military careers, Cino said.
Students have also completed labs at Centennial College.
Along with real-life experience, including marketing, parts and supply sourcing, estimating and invoicing, students explore different apprenticeship and post-secondary options.
Cino created the school’s multiple-credit course, which takes up three-quarters of the students’ school days, 11 years ago, and it has grown to include new work experiences that give students unique skills in high school.
“It is something to be proud of. It’s not the goal to see how much work they can do,” Cino said, adding it is more about varied, quality experiences. “The shop funds itself, which is good because we don’t have a lot of funding.”
Since starting the program, students have restored at least 10 cars, he said.
Many of the shop’s customers are students, teachers, or friends, but anyone from the community can bring their vehicles in for work. It is generally cheaper than the average auto shop, but it can take longer, he said.
Some people have also donated old items, such as a golf cart frame and farm equipment, that students can repurpose into usable parts for their work.
“It’s a lot more like work than it is like school,” said Constable.
Added classmate Duncan Torrie: “This is a good class for anyone who’s never seen underneath their car.”