Auto shop

Great Falls students are driven by passion for the automotive shop program

GREAT DROPS – Growing up, you might have spent a few weekends in the garage watching your dad work on a family vehicle, maybe giving you some tips or passing him some tools. Well, Paris Gibson Education Center students learn automotive maintenance as part of the program.

The Paris Gibson Education Center Automotive Shop has been teaching students how to care for cars for 15 years. Shop-taught advanced courses are available to students who complete the first two under the hood courses offered at Great Falls High School and CMR High School.

“In this facility, we do all the work under the car. So when a student leaves, the idea is that they have a good common knowledge of any and all vehicle operating systems,” said Joe Wilkins, Auto ASE Instructor.

Completion of all three courses is intended to certify that students enter the workforce or continue their studies.

Paris Gibson Education Center Automotive Technology Program

Senior Kolby Mackenstadt started working in town at a store as a junior in high school and plans to continue following his passion for cars.

“They taught me the basics, then they told me to go to a real store and walk in. The best way to learn and be in this job is to work every day. These are things you learn every day that keep you going. So after high school, I’m going to be a mechanic. It’s just something I’ve always looked forward to, but this class really helped me make that decision for me, it was just a real eye-opener,” Kolby said.

In automotive classes, students will learn everything from tire rotations, oil changes and maintenance. Students work on driver education cars for Paris Gibson.

“Passing on knowledge to students is always rewarding, especially when you see the light bulb go on where they really get it. They really want to take off and run with it. It’s great to work with students who get because they want to be here. They want to do these things and it’s very satisfying,” Wilkins said.

Students can also bring their own car to work.

“I put a new engine in mine and put countless things on the engine to try to make it run better. We brought in other classmates’ vehicles and we tore their stuff up and put it back together, cleaned it up. There’s just something about grabbing a wrench and turning bolts and fixing stuff, just good times,” said student Brycen Roberts.

Since the creation of the Paris Gibson Auto program, 208 students have obtained a national certification of automotive service excellence; 142 of these graduates are still working in the automotive industry in 2021.