Futures shift into gear

McClarty Ford donates two vehicles to Career and Technology Education courses


Photo by Anna Grace Jones

TISD and Ford representatives stand with graduate Alejandro Zarate after press conference

Story by Molly Kyles, editor in chief

Two cars out of the hundreds in McClarty Ford’s parking lot will serve a purpose more extensive than transportation. Though most of the cars in the lot are destined for sale to customers, these two cars are a gift from the dealership to the school and represent the partnership that came about through Texarkana Independent School DIstrict being named an Official Ford Motor Company Technician Training Program.

On Sept. 24, McClarty Ford dealership donated vehicles to be used by students in Career and Technology (CTE) programs. Texas High participates in the Ford Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program, which provides select students with training and experience specific to a career path with Ford.

“We were selected as one of a handful of pilot dealerships throughout the country to try this,” Dealer Principal Todd Shores said. “We had a need for it. I felt like TISD would be very supportive of it, so we raised a hand and told Ford we wanted to do it and followed up with TISD with Paul [Norton] and his team who were very supportive of it.” 

The partnership with Ford originated in November of last year when two students were chosen for paid internships with the company. One of the students was Alejandro Zarate, a 2019 graduate.

“There was a total of 15 people and we all had to get interviewed. I just got the lucky pick,” Zarate said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing after highschool. Then this came up, and it gave me something to work towards.”

Zarate wants to pursue a career in diesel technologies, and the versatility of the ACE program has been an essential role in that journey.

“It’s definitely great to be a part of [the program], and there’s a lot of opportunities,” Zarate said. “Not only is it a paid internship, you also get learning experience and school paid for, as well as opportunities to move up in the dealership.”

The students are not the only ones that benefit from this program however, and local Ford dealerships like Todd Shores’ McClarty Ford have expressed how helpful the program has been in filling skilled labor positions.

“We are in dire need to hire technicians. It seems like people want to do other things,” Shores said. “When we did this program, we had a selection of students who all wanted to be technicians that we had the first shot at [hiring]. It’s clearly a win for the dealership because we are hiring younger people, and we think they are going to be trained great and maybe make long time employees. I think we are producing good taxpaying hardworking people that are [needed] in every community.”

The positions provided by the program are lucrative, and according to Market Area Technical Specialist John Tostanoski, they provide career potential rather than job potential.

“A career is different from a job; a job may be something you have one day and is gone the next,” Tostanoski said. “This is a career where you can transform from one job role, maybe being a technician, to another one, like being a shop foreman or a service manager, so it provides you the opportunity for growth.”

Many CTE courses are in action at Texas High, and the vehicles donated by Ford will be in use by nine of these programs, including Agriculture Mechanics, Small Engine Technology and Welding. School leadership like superintendent Paul Norton feels this is necessary career preparation for students.

“Not every student is going to go right into college,” Norton said. “There’s a lot of students that go straight into the workforce. Some continue through the workforce for the rest of their life and career. Others decide they want to do something different, and as this program dictates, there are opportunities for students to grow to be a general manager [or] run the shop. It’s not just an entry level job. It’s an entry level position, but it sets that foundation for students to be able to grow and do more things in their career.”

Internship and job training is not limited to Ford. TISD has interest in expanding the reach of CTE programs throughout the community of Texarkana.

“We pursue a lot of [internship opportunities] through the chamber. There’s 24 manufacturers within a 16 mile radius of Texarkana, so we’ve been meeting with that group as a whole trying to build internship opportunities as well as [asking what] we can do to as a school district to better prepare students to enter the workforce after high school. We’ve talked with Texarkana Aluminum and several other partners in our area to try to get these internship programs, and hopefully by doing something like [the Ford program], it will catapult those opportunities for our students.  We appreciate the [Ford] partnership and would love to have more throughout the community.”