The Abilene Automotive Education Alliance or AAEA for short was founded in October, 2017.

The objective was to create a partnership between Abilene's automotive business community and the Abilene Independent School District, Cisco College, and TSTC, to bring leadership and real world relevance to the curriculum in order to produce passionate and prepared students to enter the automotive workplace.

The inaugural meeting on October 19th consisted of automotive business leaders who, through common cause, discuss the need to bring relevance, collaboration, and real-world guidance to the classrooms of the its academic partner's automotive programs. They committed not only to provide financial support to the program, but also internships and mentor-ship to the students. Through the leadership of its Chairman Paul Bounds and Vice Chairman Eric Kuhns the AAEA reached out to industry and academic leaders in an effort to identify the best way forward in an effort not to waste resources, but to emulate already existing successful programs, like those in Houston and New Mexico. They then reached out to the AISD and it's Abilene High/ Cooper Automotive instructor, Will Kirby, to begin the process of identifying specific needs of his program.

The AAEA raised over $6,000 for equipment. Their goal was to completely reorganized the automotive classroom work space. Volunteers from the 7th Vehicle Readiness Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base led by Senior Master Sgt. Kuhns disposed of all the antiquated parts and equipment, as well as hazardous waste. 

Identifying the tools needed to provide basic training needs. The AAEA, through team Dyess, bought and/or refurbished six working stations equipped with foam lined toolboxes stocked with sockets, wrenches, impacts and other necessary tools. They reorganized parts inventory storage areas as well as large tool and parts storage areas. After completely cleaning out the shop they refurbished and painted all of the workbenches and completed the update with adding epoxy to the floors.

With money to spare the AAEA is now looking for six computers to provide the students with the necessary tools to diagnose and repair the automotive vehicles of the 21st century. AAEA is also looking for simulators and equipment that can provide hands-on experience for basic maintenance repairs such as brake and rotor repair, AC/Freon repairs, engine and transmission flush repairs and more. They are also providing current engines, transmissions, and other components for student tear down and reassembly lab work.

With the renovations complete the AAEA is now reaching out to Cisco College and TSTC to establish pathways from high school to post-secondary training in order provide a more prepared student. These initial pathways will focus on technical certificates such as ASE's as well as dual credit opportunities to reduce the overall cost of the student's educational process. Initial thoughts of the alliances to expand the pathway process to include support and leadership training. The auto industry not only needs technicians, but service advisors, parts advisors, and parts and service managers to provide for the automotive consumers' needs in an ever-changing world. These pathways will focus on the entrepreneurial spirit, customer service, and conclude with an associate's degree. In today's age of acceleration post-secondary training will be extremely advantageous to the success of the industry both from a technical and leadership perspective.

In addition the AAEA plans to bring even further real-world experience to the student through a concept called "business within a school". By connecting with other disciplines within the academic partner's such as accounting and marketing, the AAEA hopes to ingrain the concept of entrepreneurship and the creation of business models in the students' psyche. Dealers will bring to the classroom current models for students to do actual repairs. In an effort to provide the student with a business profit and loss mentality. Customers will be sought after through marketing programs, inventory control, and profit and loss statements will be created through the accounting disciplines in schools. Vehicles will go through the same process as in any shop. The student will initiate a repair order for the primary concerns which will provide training for non-technical students in the area of service advising and management. The technician (student) will then do the repairs and document the repair order charging out the parts and labor, relieve parts inventories, and identify a profit loss from the repair. In a complete environment a monthly profit and loss statement would be produced to provide the student with an understanding of not only technician pay plans but overall company profits.

The AAEA believes that mentorship and internships play a key role in the success or failure of the automotive curriculum. They also hope to not only to assist in the training of the student, but also provide them with role models to inspire success. In much the same way that a sports scouts searches out great players owners and service managers will meet members of the automotive classrooms in search of great recruits. Whether those recruits are technical or support in nature they hope to provide a solid introduction into the opportunities in the automotive industry sector.

Helping students achieve their passion and goal is the ultimate goal of the AAEA. To that end they hope to establish a scholarship fund to assist students who pursue certifications and associate's degrees in the automotive industry. The scholarship funds will be for post-secondary education whether that course be taken in high school through a dual credit program or in the post-secondary arena.

Since its inception the alliance has reached out to others in the industry and community. The Abilene Automotive Educational Alliance now includes the following additional members: Matt Goehring (Dyess Air Force Base), Will Kirby (AISD/instructor), Ryder Appleton (AISD/CTE Director), Shanna Kevil (Arrow Ford) Trennon Cauthen (Arrow Ford), Billy Martin (Napa) and Rebecca Pons (New Mexico Junior-College).

The AAEA believes that it is their responsibility to lead the development of the pathways needed to ensure a strong automotive sector which can provide a quality workforce for the Abilene and Big Country communities. They also realize this can only be done through a collaborative effort between educators, students, and parents.

AAEA Founders & Leadership

Paul Bounds
  Chairman of AAEA
  Arrow Ford Fixed Operations Director

Eric Kuhus
  Subchair of AAEA
  Dyess Air Force Base

Jeff Clements
  Secretary of AAEA
  Star Dodge

Kathy Sutton
  Arrow Ford Dealerships

Rick McWhirter
  Lawrence Hall Chevrolet

David Teaff
  Lithia Toyota of Abilene

Jimmy Campbell
  Proctors Automotive

Jeff Jones
  Kia of Abilene

Deborah McCoy
  Lithia Honda of Abilene

Seaton Higginbotham
  Arrow Ford Dealerships

Arrow Ford Dealerships
Dyess Air Force Base
Lawrence Hall
Lithia Toyota of Abilene
Proctors Automotive

AAEA Members

Matt Goehring 
  Dyess Air Force Base

Will Kirby 
  AISD/ automotive shop instructor

Ryder Appleton
  AISD/CTE Director

Shanna Kevil
  Arrow Ford Dealerships

Trennon Cauthen
  Arrow Ford Dealerships

Billy Martin

Rebecca Pons
  New Mexico Junior-College