Jonathan Cuff, parts and service operations manager for Ford Motor Company, signs a check for a grant funding vehicles, equipment and tools for the Ford Technicians of Tomorrow program offered by Central Texas College in Killeen, Texas, April 9. (Photo Credit: Bruce Vasbinder, Central Texas College) VIEW ORIGINAL

KILLEEN, Texas - Central Texas College teamed up with Texas Workforce Commission and Ford Motor Company to bring a welcome addition to the Soldier for Life program here, April 9.

Ford Technicians of Tomorrow, a 16-week accelerated technical program designed to train Soldiers to be Ford-specialized mechanics, has joined the Fort Hood Soldier for Life program as one of its many opportunities provided to transitioning Soldiers. Once successfully completing the program, Soldiers receive a starter toolkit valued at roughly $4,000, and a signed job offer with a sponsoring Ford dealership.

“Today we are gathering together to celebrate this partnership between Texas Ford Dealers, Texas Workforce Commission, the Army, and Central Texas College,” Jonathan Cuff, parts and service operations manager for Ford Motor Company, said. “We’re launching the Technicians of Tomorrow Career Skills Program, which is intended to train and develop future technicians from Soldiers who are transitioning from the military, as well as veterans, looking for career opportunities.”

“We’re so excited to have a partnership with the Army,” Cuff continued. “You think about the men and women that make up the armed forces. In many cases, those Soldiers get experience in mechanical trades when they’re active duty, so we think it’s a real natural fit for those men and women to consider about coming into the automotive service trade, to be able to take advantage of that mechanical experience that they got while they’re in the Army.”

Cuff explained that there is a nationwide shortage of technicians throughout the automotive industry, and that not only does this program benefit Soldiers by having a secure job opportunity upon their transition, it also benefits Ford by being able to receive competent, qualified trained technicians into the Ford workforce. Ford is choosing the military for this program because many Soldiers possess strong mechanical skills and have received formal military field training.

As part of the celebration of the new program, a check-signing ceremony was presented by both TWC and Ford. Both programs offered a grant valued at $106,303 each to CTC, which was used to purchase five training vehicles, tools and equipment for the training program.

As part of the program, Texas Ford Dealers will sponsor a Soldier and contribute to their education, lodging and in-dealership training during the 16-week accelerated technical course. Soldiers will earn four Ford Certifications through web, classroom and lab instruction, which are recognized nationwide, as well as four weeks of in-dealership training.

In attendance at the ceremony were the nine Soldiers and veterans who are currently in the pilot class. These students have been in the program since January and will be graduating in May.

“I think this is going to be really helpful for us,” Spc. Frank Minchala, Ford ToT student, said. “We’re starting off without any experience. We have teachers that are very experienced, we have the tools, which is pretty cool, and we get the hands on training.”

Minchala, who will transition out of the Army in July, worked with a local dealership as part of his 16-week training.

“We went to the dealership, we were assigned one of the employees, one of the technicians, and I was able to help out there and ask questions,” Minchala remarked. “I’m really excited to join my family once the program is done and start a new chapter of my career.”

Jonathan Cuff, parts and service operations manager for Ford Motor Company, presents a company sweatshirt to Lt. Col. John Vann, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood executive officer, in appreciation of Army's participation in the 'Technicians of Tomorrow' program launched in Killeen, Texas, April 9. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Salmon, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“We’re so proud to partner with Ford, and the program,” Lt. Col John Vann, Fort Hood Garrison executive officer, said. “We are proud of the Soldiers. We serve many years in the military and now it’s time for us to transition. And again, I want to thank Ford and this program Technicians of Tomorrow for giving us, and I’m saying us, the opportunity to start a new life and a new career.”

“The partnership between the Texas Ford Dealers and Central Texas College on this Texas Industry Partnership grant will benefit the Soldiers transitioning out of Fort Hood into civilian life,” Aaron Demerson, TWC commissioner representing employees, said. “Employers of Texas continue to take an active role in training for their critical needs and I am proud of this contribution from the Texas Ford Dealers and their commitment to the future workforce of Texas.”

“On behalf of Governor (Greg) Abbott … congratulations for what you guys are achieving, congratulations for what you’re doing,” Demerson remarked, addressing the representatives from TWC, CTC, Fort Hood and Ford Motor Company. “Everybody in this room plays a role in making sure that we’re successful in Texas and we don’t take that for granted at all. We need the world’s workforce, the worlds of education, and the worlds of economic development to continue to come together, and we will continue to be successful here in our great state of Texas.”