August 18, 2005 – Elvis Edwards and Austin Phipps are taking charge of their life and forging a future in the specialized area of diesel mechanics. The young men, both 18 years old and entering their senior year at the St. Croix Educational Complex, were given certificates of completion Thursday by Myron Allick, St. Croix Renaissance Group vice president of operations.
Edwards and Phipps attended an eight-week internship that put the theoretical skills they learned in school to practical use, working alongside certified diesel mechanics at the Renaissance facility mechanics shops. Allick said the young men are a "viable resource," and opportunities need to be created for them so they can stay on island and pursue their careers.
"We have employees who are approaching the end of their working career. We are preparing these young men to take their place," Allick said. "We need to bring new blood into the company and build stability for the future."
The young men attend diesel mechanic classes at the St. Croix Vocational school and, according to their school instructor, Joseph Schrader, have successfully passed safety tests, maintain a B average, have good communications skills and can understand car service manuals.
"There is a high demand for these skills," Schrader said, noting that the young men can repair trucks, generators and earth-moving machines. Schrader said as the economy grows in any area, the demand for skilled diesel mechanics grows, too. "These programs open doors for young people."
The Vocational School also trains and re-trains adults, hosting special sessions in the evenings to certify adults for the national exams, according to Schrader.
Edwards and Phipps exuded an air of confidence as they examined their newly acquired certificates. Working with diesel engines "makes the world more efficient because diesel is less polluting" than regular fuel, Edwards said. Both have their eyes set on higher education and plan to attend college.
"I want to go to UTI (Universal Technical Institute of Texas) and study auto and diesel repair and then open my own business," Phipps said.
The young men say they were selected for the internship because they were always enthusiastic and "not lazy."
"We put a lot of effort into this," Edwards said. Phipps showed his acknowledgement with a big smile.
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