As a graduating senior at Tonawanda High School, John Gorman had an idea about what he wanted to pursue for his career, he just wasn’t entirely sure how to put his plan into action. He had just completed the auto tech program offered through Erie 1 BOCES, and he was quite good at it.
So good, in fact, that John and a classmate took part in the annual Niagara Frontier Auto Dealers Association/Ron Smith Memorial AutoTech Competition and finished in second place. That achievement led to the National Automotive Technology Competition in New York City, where the duo would finish in a very respectable seventh place against the strongest teams from across the country.
And that’s when fate intervened and helped John chart a course for a successful career in Western New York’s automotive industry.
“After New York CIty I was planning on going to UTI,” said John. UTI is short for Universal Technical Institute, an out-of-town organization known for offering mechanic training courses. When Tom Herrmann, chairman of the local AutoTech committee heard about Gorman’s plans, he stepped in and offered another suggestion.
“Tom said he was sick of seeing local students leave the area, so he set up a meeting with me and Duane Paddock,” John recalled. Paddock is president and CEO of Paddock Chevrolet, located at 3232 Delaware Ave. in Kenmore. “Duane stepped up to help me with my college tuition, books and tools to keep me here.”
The Tonawanda grad then enrolled in the GM ASEP (Automotive Service Educational Program) at Monroe Community College in Rochester, where he commuted back and forth while also working part-time at Paddock Chevrolet. Upon completion of the two-year program, John earned an associate’s degree and the training he would need to become a valuable full-time employee at Paddock.
“If I had gone to another vocational school after high school, I would have only received a certificate and not a degree,” John said of his post-high school education. “I started at Paddock the summer before college. I was just washing cars and helping with the little things at the time, but it got me into the building. When I was in the ASEP program, the semesters were short by a few weeks, and that allowed me to come back to the dealership and apply what I had just learned at school.”
Today John is a valuable 11-year employee of Paddock Chevrolet, where he was recently promoted to lead technician. It’s a supervisory role that allows him to tackle the bigger jobs and also advise the other auto technicians when the situation calls for it. “No more brake jobs and easy stuff anymore,” John said with a laugh.
Best of all, John hasn’t forgotten when it all began. For the past several years he has served as a judge for the NFADA’s Ron Smith Memorial AutoTech Competition and also serves on the NFADA’s advisory board for the BOCES automotive program.
“The NFADA’s Auto Tech program pretty much changed my goals in life and I’m definitely in a much better place now because of it,” he said. “Auto tech is really hard, but the rewards are great if you can stick with it and stay on track. You can’t just walk in off the street and get hired as a grease monkey anymore. You’ve got to have the smarts as well!”
The next NFADA/Ron Smith Memorial AutoTech Competition for high school juniors and seniors will take place on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, at Erie Community College’s Vehicle Technology Training Center in Orchard Park. For more information, please visit www.nfada.com or follow the AutoTech Competition on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NfadaRonSmithMemorialAutotechCompetition?fref=ts.