Curry— Two Curry High School students have signed for a unique career opportunity with Mercedes-Benz. Seniors Tristan Jones and Martin Martinez will participate in the Mercedes TECH …
Curry— Two Curry High School students have signed for a unique career opportunity with Mercedes-Benz.
Seniors Tristan Jones and Martin Martinez will participate in the Mercedes TECH Program, which will allow them to be employed with Mercedes while earning an associate's degree in automotive technology.
Jones will attend Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa and Martinez will be enrolled with Bevill State Community College in Sumiton, while they also work with Mercedes.
Mercedes partners with Shelton State, Bevill State, Wallace State Community College and Lawson State Community College to offer the work, study opportunity.
"The main focus is to prepare students for a position as a Mercedes Technician in off line repair," Mercedes-Benz Organizational Development Specialist Steve Colburn explained in an email to the Daily Mountain Eagle. "The other focus is to prepare the students for possible leadership roles."
Colburn, along with college officials from Bevill State and Shelton State, spoke when Martinez and Jones signed with Mercedes on May 16 at Curry High School.
Bevill State requires two working semesters at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Tuscaloosa County, while Shelton State offers a five semester program.
Starting pay for both Jones and Martinez will be $16 an hour and later increase to $17 an hour. Bevill State students accepted into the Mercedes program also receive a $400 monthly housing stipend.
The students get stipends for tuition — some that pay 100 percent — depending on semester advancement, and top students have an opportunity to participate in the Mercedes Tech Apprenticeship Program. The program prepares students to be a repair technician.
In the Mercedes TECH program, students shadow the production experience, work in the training center and receive classroom instruction.
"It's vehicle technology in a way that you don't think about," Colburn said. "Our cars are computers with four wheels on them. That's what we work on every day."
Colburn put into perspective how quickly vehicle technology is changing. He said their 167 GLE model has 100 mini computers built into the vehicle, and a battery plant is being built at the Tuscaloosa Mercedes plant to allow for production of a fully electric SUV in four years.
The Tuscaloosa Mercedes plant currently produces four vehicle models.
Jana Kennedy, campus director for Bevill State-Sumiton, and Mike Fields of Shelton State, congratulated the young men on their accomplishments.
"You're going to be entering, as Mr. Colburn said, a high demand, high wage field where you will pretty much be guaranteed a job," Kennedy said. "You've got a plan, and it's a good one."
Fields added, "This is the next chapter in your life, and you're taking the first step."
Jones and Martinez were all smiles as they signed their offer letters last week to take part in the Mercedes TECH program. Neither have experience in the automotive industry, but both say they are ready to learn and get to work.
"It's huge. It's a chance to get out of Walker County and start a new life for both of us," Jones said.
"It's a big deal to me," Martinez said. "It's a great job and good opportunity to go and make money."
Colburn said he looks forward to Jones and Martinez joining the workforce with a group of people who also participated in the Mercedes TECH program.
"Since 2012, 110 students have took advantage of an opportunity like this, and they've been hired in the Mercedes TECH program," Colburn said. "I've got 26 students who are already team leaders in my production shop, and that is the next level up in production. I've got 10 working in off line repair as top skilled repair technicians. That's amazing."
For more information on the Mercedes-Benz TECH program, visit https://www.mbusi.com/employment/training/mercedes-tech-program.