Mechanic school offers opportunities

Superior auto programme could be model for other trades

The Superior Auto programme for young mechanics could be the template for an expansion of training opportunities in different trades in the Cayman Islands. 

The training scheme, which combines a one-year, full-time course with on-the-job experience, has been highlighted by candidates seeking election as a model that could be replicated in different sectors, including electrical, plumbing and hospitality. 

Mark and Denise DeMercado, the founders of the programme, say there is no reason why it could not work in a variety of different professions. But they believe it will take funding to make it happen. 

The couple set up the training scheme themselves, using their own money to get it off the ground. 

“Maybe we were stupid to do it, but we really saw the need for it,” Denise said. “I was tired of seeing the rejection in the eyes of these young men when they came asking for work and I had to turn them away because they weren’t trained.” 

“We made a selfless decision to use one of our units as a classroom and try to develop this training programme. 

“I don’t know if any other companies are going to do that.”  

Superior Auto has 10 students working toward a Level 2 motor vehicle repair and servicing qualification. Accredited through a link with the Jamaican German Automotive School, part of the renowned Heart Trust in Jamaica, students graduate with an internationally recognised qualification. 

The programme now attracts funding from several sponsors, including the Cayman Islands Department of Education, which provided $19,000 toward running costs last year. The programme, which has one full-time instructor, also got a one-off $60,000 grant from the Nation Building Fund. 

It costs $98,000-a-year to run the training course, which is offered for free to successful applicants. 

Levi Allen, a volunteer on the programme with responsibility for the curriculum, said there was a clear need in the Cayman Islands for a wider variety of career training options. 

“We need to give opportunities to the young people and broaden the options that they have. Not everybody wants to be an accountant, not everyone can be an accountant.  

“Look at hospitality, tourism, automotive, construction, all of the technical sectors are underdeveloped.” 

He believes a trade-school is the ultimate solution for the Cayman Islands but partnerships with the private sector and overseas schools like the Jamaican HEART foundation can help fill the gap. 

“Until we are able to get a trade school, this is the ideal situation. Even when we do get it, these kinds of programmes can help provide the link between training and work.” 

Michael Myles, the at-risk youth coordinator for the education ministry, backed the concept of using the Superior Auto programme as a template for getting more young Caymanians involved in skilled trades. 

“It is my opinion that the model Superior Auto has perfected can be used to implement other vocational programs, for example plumbing, electrical or hospitality.  

“To ensure that all these programmes are credible they must be licensed by an accredited organization which is what Superior Auto has done. I also believe that these programs are cost effective and we must invest in their operation.” 

The programme started in 2010. Three of the six students initially enrolled graduated and all are now working as mechanics on the island. Three more graduated from the 2011 intake and are now working as interns. 

The class expanded in 2012 to include ten students, selected from 33 applicants. 

Mark DeMercado Added: “We really see that the needs is there for this and we want to keep it free of charge so that it is accessible to all. We don’t want the cost of education to be a barrier to anyone who needs an education.”

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Leandru Ebanks, one of the first students to graduate from the training programme, now works full-time with Superior Auto. – PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER

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Mark and Denise DeMercado founded the training programme to create opportunities for young Caymanians.

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Mark DeMercado and Levi Allen at Superior Auto in George Town.
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