Award-Winning Automotive Toolkit Initiative Equips Students with Necessary Tools

June 21, 2023 | Kathy Bradshaw | College Advancement, Press Release

Donors and Leaders TCAT at Chattanooga State Toolkit Initiative

Automotive Toolkit Initiative partners, from left: Dan Baird, Sonic Automotive; Austin Watson, Mountain View Auto Group; Brent Morgan, Integrity Automotive Group; Dr. Jim Barrott, Chattanooga State; Brad Cobb, Bowers Automotive Group; Dr. Rebecca Ashford, Chattanooga State; Mayor Weston Wamp; Ken Nichols, Crown Automotive Group; Ed Emerson, Capital Toyota/Lexus of Chattanooga. Missing from the photo is Bill Stout, Acura of Chattanooga.

An age-old expression says a worker is only as good as their tools, and there’s a good deal of truth in this. Although tools alone don’t make someone a great worker, even the most talented people will struggle to get the job done without the proper tools, especially in the automotive industry, which requires a pretty large-sized toolbox full of wrenches and ratchets, pliers, and prybars.

A group of Greater Chattanooga automotive dealers set out to address this exact issue. Seven local automotive groups, representing over 20 automotive brands in the area, wanted to help Chattanooga State’s TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology) students who were studying to become automotive technicians through the college’s Automotive Technology program. They didn’t want a lack of tools to be the reason that a generation of aspiring future automotive technicians might not reach their goals.

Therefore, they created the Automotive Toolkit Initiative. In just two weeks, this group of generous auto industry experts raised and donated $81,000, enough to supply 15 fully stocked toolkits to ChattState for students’ use. The toolkits include all the tools of the trade for any automotive technician and come stored in a giant seven-drawer tool cabinet for proper tool care and storage. Each toolkit is estimated to be worth at least $5,000.

But the automotive groups behind the Toolkit Initiative went even further than that. They also plan to provide mentorship and job search support. They intend to hold job fairs, meet-and-greets with professionals in the auto biz, and work-study programs allowing students to work at a dealership while completing their studies.

“I was sitting in a Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce meeting, listening to what Eric Fuller, executive and mentor at local incubator Co.Lab, was doing with the trucking industry and Chattanooga State,” said Brad Cobb, a champion for the Toolkit initiative and president of the Bowers Automotive Group. “I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t we do a similar program in the technician space?’ So, I reached out to Chattanooga State, and we developed the concept for the program to address the need. I then contacted the local dealers to ask for their support, and almost all of them immediately signed up. We are so excited to see this program create new opportunities and remove barriers for future technicians through the Toolkit Initiative.”

Recognition for the Automotive Toolkit Initiative Dr. Jim Barrott, Chattanooga State; representing the toolkit partners, Kevin Aviles, GM Subaru Chattanooga; Jimmy Jones, Chattanooga State, and Peyton Holland, Executive Director of the National Technical Honor Society.

But if that’s not good news enough, it gets better: ChattState’s Toolkit Initiative showed so much promise and support that it recently won an award! Earlier this spring, the automotive leaders spearheading this initiative were presented with the Silver Star of Excellence Award by American Technical Education Association (ATEA) in collaboration with the National Technical Honor Society.

This award recognizes a business (or group of businesses) that shows the greatest support of technical education. It is a prestigious and, in this case, extremely well-deserved honor.

Automotive groups participating in the award-winning initiative include:

  • Acura of Chattanooga
  • Bowers Automotive Group
  • Capital Toyota/Lexus of Chattanooga
  • Crown Automotive Group
  • Integrity Automotive Group
  • Mountain View Auto Group
  • Sonic Automotive Group