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District 196 automotive program boasts over five decades of preparing future vehicle technicians

Since the creation of the District 196 automotive and vehicle services program in 1968, classes have been led by Mr. Rabanus – first by Rich Rabanus for 34 years, and now by his son, Ian Rabanus. Vehicle maintenance and repair is an expertise that runs in the family. Though the automotive industry has changed significantly over the last 50 years, the mission of the program remains grounded in preparing students for career success.

“What we’re doing is building a program that mirrors what the real-world auto industry looks like,” Rabanus said. “We’re providing these kids every opportunity to apply what they are learning in our shop and graduate high school with a job offer.”

Vehicle Services is an elective available through the district’s Career and Technical Education program. When vehicle services first began, Rabanus said it was focused on electrical components and basic car repairs. Now, in his 19th year teaching at Rosemount High School, he said the program is far more advanced and aligned with industry standards. With the help of district funding, grants and generous donations from local companies, the garage space at Rosemount has been transformed into a fully functioning vehicle repair shop, complete with tools and equipment available to the professionals. 

“This career is more challenging and dynamic than ever,” Rabanus said. “Students still learn the basics and identify how things work, but now it’s more science and math focused. They learn precise measurements, use high-tech tools to diagnose issues and apply engineering knowledge.”

As part of the program, students have access to iPads equipped with Ford’s Next Generation Learning curriculum. This digital catalog of modules allows students to explore vehicle care and diagnostics on nearly every car make and model. Underneath a Jeep Cherokee, juniors Daeshon Borbor and Andrew Boehmer inspect various aspects of the car and can diagnose an issue using the iPad. With computers running the vast majority of new cars, Rabanus said having access to technology is critical for success in today’s auto industry.  

Not only do students get real-world, hands-on experience, they can also amass a portfolio of certifications and accreditations. Through the availability of Ford’s digital modules, students can receive Ford on-the-job credits by taking certain classes. Rabanus has also forged a partnership with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and Dunwoody that affords students the opportunity to receive up to 16 articulation credits. And at the end of the two-year program, students who complete all classes can take the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) entry-level certification, a prominent achievement held by over 300,000 professionals. 

“It’s a great opportunity for those of us who might not be thinking about the traditional college route,” Boehmer, 17, said. “This is a big first step for us to explore a job with cars, get the exposure we need to the industry professionals and leave high school ready for work.”

There is a growing number of high school students exploring technical education careers, and a continued demand for people to fill those roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 46,000 automotive technicians will be needed to fill roles through 2026. Senior Elizabeth Benke said she hopes this also sparks a movement for more female technicians.

“This is a great class to explore math and engineering, and being able to see how these parts work together is quite eye opening,” she said. “More women should try this because it provides an opportunity to learn something new and is a job field worth exploring.”