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Training & Education

Enabling skills

By Colin Linneweber

This story has been updated for the July/August 2016 Top Webex issue.

An automotive technology program is guiding challenged Massachusetts students

July 2016 - The Chamberlain International School has attracted notice for its automotive repair program for teenage students with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders on its campus in Middleboro, Massachusetts.

A four-year, therapeutic school founded in 1976, Chamberlain offers programs to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of adolescents who face a variety of difficulties. Current enrollment is 125 pupils and the student-to-teacher ratio is four to one. 

The school’s Doug Anderson Memorial Auto Technology program is part of a curriculum designed for students who have not previously excelled in a standard educational system. Chamberlain’s auto program is personalized and caters to students’ interests and career aspirations. Joe Kingsland—who Doug Anderson handpicked as his program’s successor shortly before succumbing to bone cancer in April 2014—has students restoring a 1946 Chevy 1.5-ton pickup truck. 

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“The truck came from Vermont about five or six years ago,” says Kingsland. “We’re going to completely renovate the truck and make it a classic that we can use for hayrides and parades. We’d like to have it completed by early 2017.” 

Harsh New England winters rotted the Chevy’s shock brackets and its parts are now obsolete. So Kingsland’s class had to rewire the entire truck and fabricate new parts from sheet-bulk metal that they acquired from Turner Steel Co. in nearby Bridgewater, Massachusetts. 

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“We had to rewire the pickup and rebuild it from scratch,” says Kingsland. “Because you can’t buy these parts nowadays, we needed to make brackets and plates. We cut the sheet metal to size using chop saw blades and die grinders.” 

Around this time in the restoration process, one of Kingsland’s students, Curtis, discovered his passion for welding. Kingsland needed a metal stand for the shop sander and Curtis volunteered to weld one together using square tubing and a 1/4-inch-thick steel plate.  

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“Curtis loves welding,” says Kingsland. “With raw materials we collected from Turner (Steel Co.), he created a legitimate welding table for our shop. We welded brackets and plates on it. He’s graduating in August and he’s going to continue taking welding training classes to further his career.”

In addition to the 1946 Chevy, Kingsland’s students are renovating a Jaguar XJS convertible and constructing a Factory Five Mk4 Roadster.  

The roadster, he says, “is a replica kit car modeled after Carroll Shelby's 1965 Cobra.” Factory Five Racing Inc. in Wareham, Massachusetts, “provides us with a frame and parts and the sheet metal arrives pre-cut, [and] we assemble and rivet everything together and the result is a running, driving street-legal hot rod,” Kingsland enthuses.

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Beyond hands-on lessons and tutorials, the teacher ensures the class is exposed to as many auto-related subjects and environments as possible. “We go to auto museums, the Vintage Motorsports Festival at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and attend and volunteer at car shows, and cruise nights at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough (Massachusetts). We are also members of the Mass Cruisers Auto Club,” says Kingsland. “The auto industry is very diversified and there are so many different jobs that there may be a spot for everybody.”

The auto industry, including the aftermarket repair and restoration sector, has become more diversified and always in need of skilled technicians. Thanks to Doug Anderson and, now, Joe Kingsland, Chamberlain students enrolled in the program are able to qualify for career opportunities they may have not dreamed would be open to them. FFJ

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