Salem-area car dealerships donate $250K to hands-on education pr - KPTV - FOX 12

Salem-area car dealerships donate $250K to hands-on education program

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Several Salem-area businesses are making a hefty investment in a different side of public education.

Recently, six car dealerships donated $250,000 to the Salem-Keizer School District's Career and Technical Education Center, which teaches students specific skills they need to work in auto body repair.

"When you come here, to this place, it's like you're going to a job. And you're treated like an individual, a professional, and an adult," said Noah Jones, a junior.

The center, which opened in the fall of 2015, already has a track record of success.

According to the district, students who complete just one class at CTEC have a graduation rate of 87 percent, and  graduation rates for those who complete the entire program are in the high 90 percent range, compared to a district-wide average of just over 73 percent.

"A lot of times, they go to high school, they don't really think they belong there," said T.J. Wilson, an instructor at CTEC. "So they come to a place like this and they find their reason for coming to school every day."

The significant investment by the local car dealerships is an investment in what the companies see as potential future employees to work in their shops.

"When they come out and have some basic knowledge, then it's that much faster that they can be productive for us. So it's really a win-win," said Dick Withnell, President of Withnell Motor Company.

Students who graduate and go on to work in auto body shops can earn close to $50,000 per year, and those with painting experience can earn up to $80,000.

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