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Conversations at the Car Show Classroom

Early last month, The Piston Foundation unveiled a new program called the Car Show Classroom. This program is designed to combat the main issue keeping young people away from the skilled trades: a simple lack of awareness. The foundation aims to change this by giving youths the opportunity to learn first-hand what it’s like to work in vehicle restoration.

By christopher Perkowski

November 3, 2022

A Problem to Solve

According to the Makers Index study published by Stanley Black & Decker, a leading cause keeping young people away from the skilled trades is a lack of first-hand information. Only 42% of today’s youths have ever had a conversation about skilled trade careers with experienced craftsmen. Because of this, many never discover what could be their perfect career path. So how can industry leaders engage with more youths and show them what the skilled trades have to offer?

Introducing the Car Show Classroom

In order to close the trade awareness gap, the Piston Foundation has introduced the Car Show Classroom program to bring together young car enthusiasts and working auto technicians to discuss cars and car career options. Students from local technical education programs are invited to attend a classic car show and engage with auto technician mentors. They can explore the show, talk about the cars, and learn about the jobs and skills that keep collector cars in tip-top shape.

Our first two Car Show Classroom events are a collaboration with Small Car Company, a Connecticut car club that brings local tech-school students to its events to promote automotive career opportunities. Small Car Company, led by Dave Abelow and Tom Truitt, works closely with the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System which operates school tech programs across the state.

The goal is to engage with youths while they are still in environments where learning and exploration is encouraged. Parents are an important part of this, which is why The Car Show Classroom wants them to stay informed of their child’s interests. Not only do students and parents go home with new career information, they gain a real-life connection to mentors and Piston Foundation programs that can help them plan for the future.

Class is in Session

The first Car Show Classroom event was held on October 15 at the 49th Porsche Club’s Connecticut Valley Region (CVR) Concours. The event featured over 120 Porsche’s ranging from the classic 356’s to the very latest all electric Taycans, a great opportunity for a first-hand experience. A group of students from across Connecticut’s 17 Technical High Schools came to the event where they were able to learn all that car culture has to offer.

On hand to mentor the students were Mike Marra and Paden Teddick from Automobile Associates of Canton, a well-known Porsche restoration and race prep firm. Most notably, Mike was the winner of the first Piston Technicians Award during the Lime Rock Historic Festival last September, an award bestowed to him in recognition of his unrivaled excellence in car maintenance. Mike was more than prepared to show this expertise as he described the ins and outs of a Porsche vehicle.

Mike and Paden led students on a tour of the cars on display as they shared stories of their own experiences progressing from trade school to a full-time position in classic car restorations. Both were happy to spend time afterward answering questions and explaining career options to students and their parents.

The Votes Are In

The students who attended the Car Show Classroom no doubt had a chance to witness some truly breathtaking vehicles. But which car placed number 1 in their hearts? As an additional part of the program, The Classroom encouraged students to take it to a friendly vote to see which car would come out on top. In the end, the winner was a beautiful 1975 Porsche 914, owned by Patrick Bennett. Bennett graciously posed for some pictures as Dereck Amador from E.C. Goodwin High School and Piston’s Jerry Charlup presented him with the award.

A Big Thanks to Those Involved

The first Car Show Classroom event turned out to be a great experience thanks, in no small part, to Mike and Paden as well as the CVR Porsche Club. The Piston Foundation wishes to extend a big thank you to all those who volunteered their time and expertise.

Thanks to Tom Truitt and Dave Abelow of Small Car Company for organizing and producing our first two events at Caffeine & Carburetors and the CVR Porsche Club.

Plans for more Car Show Classroom events are already in the works and volunteers are always welcome. If you would like to participate as a mentor or you know a student group in the Connecticut area interested in joining a Car Show Classroom, please complete the contact form on our website. 

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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