Automotive technician training program offers Sterling HS students hands-on career experience

Mapping out the road for life after high school can be intimidating for some students, but with the help of HISD’s Transportation department and International Trucks of Houston, students from Sterling Aviation High School are quickly on their way to meaningful careers in the automotive industry.

The Automotive Diesel Internship Program, sponsored by HISD’s Transportation Fleet Operations, creates a hands-on opportunity for departmental staff to train future automotive technicians and provide guidance to students. Training is divided among all five motor pools in the district in hopes of giving students the background and initiative to succeed in automotive mechanics.

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“When I got to Sterling four years ago, I had to figure out a way to think outside of the box to get the program going,” said John Chilo Sr., HISD CTE Department Chair and Linked Learning Lead Teacher. “I came up with a proposal for an internship program for kids coming into HISD to work in the shops and get the hands-on experience, then come back to me and get the curriculum.”

Chilo, who also serves as Sterling High School’s Automotive Instructor, said the program is currently in its fourth year and there are plans to expand as the program grows in enrollment. For now, there are a total of 10 interns, but by next year, there are hopes in having students at each Transportation motor pool.

“It’s actually a career instead of a job, and that’s what we’re trying to teach them,” Chilo said.

Students are interviewed and if accepted into the automotive program, they are given a seven-day trial period to determine if they want to stay involved. Interns will work at one of the Transportation motor pools for three hours in the afternoon before taking a bus back to school during eighth period to finish their courses. All interns must also maintain a satisfactory grade point average to stay in the program.

Alan Martinez, a junior at Sterling, says the internship is different from what he expected after being encouraged by his family to look into the program.

“My mother wanted me to learn something different because I wanted to become a draftsman in architecture,” Martinez said. “She said I should have a plan B, so I said since we don’t have a mechanic in my family, I wanted to become the first.”

Joshua Holcombe, a senior in his second year of the internship, says he has plans to pursue a career with the district through the program.

“It’s fun working here with everyone,” Holcombe said. “This is really what I want to do, and I want to stay working here in mechanics.”

Robert Henson, an HISD Transportation employee for 35 years, serves as a mentor for the internship at Barnett Motor Pool. Henson says he started out in a similar program years ago while attending Worthing High School and enjoys paying it forward to current HISD students.

“The best part is to let the students see what the shop atmosphere is like and to give them the opportunity to observe and ask questions,” said Henson. “I want to be able to help enhance what they are learning in the classroom.”

Chilo says after completing the internship and graduating from high school, students can earn scholarships to attend automotive technical training school while starting off at a full-time, entry-level position with HISD.

“The ultimate goal is that when kids graduate from high school and go through the Automotive Diesel Internship Program, they come to HISD Transportation and are employed,” Chilo said. “We are keeping everything in house. We have an automotive program and one of the largest transportation services in the state right at our back door, so why not make use of it?”

For more information on the Automotive Diesel Internship Program at Sterling High School, contact Program Coordinator Murial Jones at 713-991-0510.