American Auto College

JD Baumgarten cuts the ribbon alongside Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll at American Auto College, 1010 W. Bridge in Blackfoot.

American Auto College, an automotive technician school that offers a hybrid of traditional classroom instruction with apprenticeship-style learning, held a ribbon cutting on June 1 to mark the completion of their Blackfoot facility at 1010 W. Bridge.

The first day of classes will take place on July 18.

There are eight students signed up for the program, sponsored by the Tadd Jenkins Auto Group, and enrollment will be capped at 16 students. Enrollment is still open and a student could theoretically be accepted during the school year if they apply at usautocollege.com.

JD Baumgarten, director of American Auto College, said their program, “represents a completely new model of technician education.”

While the school will offer the same associate degree in automotive technology as other programs, students will attend only two traditional classes per week. In order to qualify for the school’s free tuition, they’ll be expected to maintain at least 32 hours of employment at the partner shops, Tadd Jenkins Chevy in Rigby and Tadd Jenkins Ford/CDJR in Blackfoot.

“We’re excited to have this and be a part of this. It’s a really big deal, and we’re excited that we’re doing it in Blackfoot. I think this is gonna really be good for the city,” said Tadd Jenkins, owner of Tadd Jenkins Auto Group.

As students complete the school’s internship requirements, they will be paid $12 an hour their first year, $15 an hour the second year, and $20 the third year as they take on more responsibilities around the shop. Rather than taking out student loans, students will graduate having earned over $75,000 in wages.

These internships will be where the students will complete their assignments. The automotive courses will be designed and taught by Jeremy Bird, an award-winning auto shop teacher at Idaho Falls High School, Baumgarten said.

“I’m collaborating with Jeremy Bird to marry together the academics and the technical components of what techs need to learn so that once they graduate they’re ready to go out and really make some real change in their community, support their families and make their dreams happen. So we’re really excited to be the place where that’s all gonna start, in this classroom,” Baumgarten said.

While students graduate more quickly at a traditional institution, Baumgarten said a typical career path involves spending two to three years, “working in a low-skill, low-pay environment to get the necessary hands-on experience to finally use their degree.” In comparison, students who complete the curriculum at American Auto College will complete all of the requirements of manufacturer training while in school.

“There is an extreme need for technicians in the automotive industry,” Jenkins said.

“Honestly, for 20 years I’ve told my grandkids, don’t worry so much about college. Get an education, get knowledge enough to be able to make a living. Something like this is ideal,” said Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll. “I’m not knocking anybody who has a college degree, but we still need automotive technicians.”

“I applaud your effort here, I support it. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community and I wish you the very best of luck and I look for great things here,” Carroll said.

“Thank you to the Blackfoot community at large. We hope to really be an asset to the community and a job creator and a focal point of some really positive change,” Baumgarten said.

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