AKRON — Bridgestone Americas Inc. and Akron Public Schools are joining forces to provide up to 100 Akron area high-school students hands-on automotive technology experience while also learning the skills necessary to run a retail store.
Bridgestone and Akron Public Schools (APS) are partnering to establish the Bridgestone Academy of Applied Engineering and Technology, which will open and run a Firestone Complete Auto Care center, at the East Community Learning Center — formerly East High School — starting this fall.
APS said it will retrofit a portion of the existing automotive technology lab at the East CLC school building in conjunction with Bridgestone, which will donate materials, fixtures and point-of-sale systems.
The center will come complete with software programs, customer waiting area and equipment to service vehicles. Uniformed students will provide limited auto maintenance services to the local community while practicing customer service and business acumen.
All revenue generated from service and sales will be reinvested into the program, according to APS.
"The automotive technology program at East CLC has a long history of teaching students auto repair skills," Chadwick Groom, an East CLC automotive technology teacher, said.
"This collaboration with Bridgestone will strengthen our curriculum by providing students with more advanced training while learning about customer service and business fundamentals."
As part of the deal, Bridgestone will become a Named Academy Partner in the growing community of businesses engaging in the new College & Career Academies of Akron for APS high schools.
"Bridgestone is thrilled to be part of the College & Career Academies of Akron," Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer, chief risk officer and executive vice president, Bridgestone Americas.
"This collaboration underscores our long-term, deep-seated commitment and ties to the Akron community and education in particular.
"...this training center is a tangible representation of Our Way to Serve, our corporate social-responsibility commitment," she said. "The center reflects our dedication to educating the next generation of automotive and retail professionals, using the latest technology, operational procedures and business practices offered in our Firestone Complete Auto Care tire and automotive service centers."
This new center was inspired by Maplewood High School Automotive Training Center, a public-private collaboration between Bridgestone and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to benefit Nashville education.
Since the beginning of that collaboration in 2015, Bridgestone has hired 17 Maplewood graduates as store teammates and 12 as interns at Firestone Complete Auto Care locations in the Nashville region.
APS was designated a Ford Next Generation Learning Community in May 2017. The Ford Motor Co. Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co., is supporting the transformation of public high schools into career-themed academies to better prepare students for college and professional success in today's competitive global economy.
The collaboration between APS and Bridgestone was formed with the help of United Way of Summit County. In May, APS announced that United Way would serve as a link between the College and Career Academies of Akron and local businesses to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students and to strengthen the education to employment pipeline in Summit County.