Deciding on a career pathway before graduating high school can be one of the greatest challenges in the minds of high school seniors. MeckEd student Aaron Nguyen graduated from Independence High School in 2018, but before he walked across the stage, he was already set on his career goal; to become an auto mechanic. “It was always in my blood since I was younger. It started with the Fast and Furious movies. I just really liked cars and thought they would be interesting to learn. It sparked my interest on how a car works, or what it looks like, and what makes it run? I just wanted to know how to do stuff and really work on the car and build a car,” Nguyen said.
With the help of Charlotte Works’ youth program provider MeckEd, Nguyen seized the opportunities that his parents dreamed of when they migrated from Vietnam before he was born although he chose a different path than what they had envisioned. “They always wanted me to become a doctor, but I never had an interest in that field,” he explained. Instead Nguyen took matters into his own hands and became active in the MeckEd program by participating in college tours, job shadowing, career readiness classes, and Working Smart training. He then was accepted into the Charlotte Works partnership with Charlotte Area Transit (CATS) pre-apprenticeship program. “Apprenticeships produce skilled career-seekers and help close the skills gap that often prevents young adults from gaining employment in high-demand occupations,” said Jeremy Wilson, compliance manager at Charlotte Works.
Nguyen was able to learn more about the ins and outs of becoming a diesel technician. “I learned how to work on a car, how to work on motors, how to use a tool properly and everything that relates to my career and my future. The things I learned at the CATS program works for anywhere, it can be at a semi-truck company, it can be at any auto mechanic shop or anywhere in the world,” explained Nguyen. In 2018, he completed 225.5 hours of training to finish the program. His achievements didn’t stop there. Nguyen was awarded a full scholarship to Central Piedmont Community College from the Central Piedmont Community College Foundation. In collaboration with Charlotte Works for the diesel technician and heavy equipment technology program. “I have the opportunity to learn in class and in the shop. Some days we are in the classroom learning about shop safety and how to not injure yourself and then other days we are inside the shop and work on our cars or other vehicles.” Nguyen says he was able to take what he learned from his pre-apprenticeship and apply it in the classroom. “In my shop safety class, I already knew the stuff because of CATS. I knew to wear safety goggles, steel toe boots, and gloves.”
After graduation, Nguyen is keeping his options open because he’ll be certified to work on certain types of engines. But in the meantime, his MeckEd career pathways advisor, Crystal Pope, says he is staying on track with his goals. “He is also working while in school. He won’t take a job that doesn’t relate to his goals. He worked at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store first and now he works at a mechanic shop. He’s still highlighting his skills by way of working to enhance his options in the mechanics field,” added Pope.
Nguyen is a big proponent of pre-apprenticeships and becoming a part of the MeckEd program. “I would say try it out, so it can give you a feel for the different jobs that are out there. You never know the outcome. I never thought I’d get a full scholarship. I was worried about financial aid and then I got a full ride to do something that I love to do and want to pursue to fulfill my dreams.”
Aaron Nguyen is one of the many success stories representing Charlotte Works’ mission to ensure all youth and young adults are career ready. Read more on our website.