More than a dozen trade schools, community colleges and other community resources met with Career Academy and Technical School students on Tuesday to provide information about the programs that they offer.

The college fair, which was held inside the Automotive Shop, showcased hands-on careers in the automotive industry. 

“We really just want to start exposing students to the variety of programs and opportunities that are out there. Some of our students don’t know about local colleges that are close to home,” said CATS Automotive Chair Justin Bennett.

CATS hosts a college fair in the fall and a career fair in the spring so that students are aware of all post-high school pathways.

Senior Lillyahna Nevarez was a part of the automotive program last year and is in the welding program this year. She is interested in a career in the automotive industry and has a passion for hands-on work.

“I like that I can focus on what I’m doing. Some of it is very step by step and easy to follow. Sometimes the work gives you challenges and you can learn a lot from it,” she explained.

Nevarez met with David Conner, Forsyth Tech’s automotive systems program coordinator, told her about the Toyota & Lexus T-Ten program, which stands for Technician-Training Education Network.

“This is the only program of its kind in North Carolina,” Conner said, adding that he recruits students from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The program specializes in training automotive technicians for a career working at Toyota and Lexus dealership service departments. Students train on vehicles that are five years old or newer so that they are familiar with the latest technology.

Students balance their classroom learning with a hands-on paid internship at a Toyota or Lexus dealership. After completing the program, students will earn an associate degree.

Automotive students Diego Benitz and Micah Carmona said that they enjoyed speaking with the representatives from Universal Technical Institute. Both plan on attending a community college or trade school for automotive technology.

Wilkes Community College lead automotive instructor Matthew Ham attended the college fair to be a resource for students. He wanta students to know that working in the automotive industry is a rewarding career.

“When you take a vehicle that people have given up on and bring it back to life — to me, that’s rewarding in and of itself. To know that I can do that is one thing, but helping people is the biggest benefit,” Ham said.