Automotive academy at Seminole Ridge High School puts students on fast track to careers

Partnership between Seminole Ridge, Al Packer Ford helps students land jobs
Seminole Ridge Community High School senior Antonio Caputo works on a vehicle in the school's automotive program, Jan. 11, 2023.jpg
Posted at 6:03 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 18:03:44-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Time is running out for Palm Beach County students to apply to Choice Programs for next school year.

Jan. 27 is the deadline to choose from the more than 300 Choice and Career and technical education programs throughout the district. Those programs cover everything from culinary, cybersecurity, firefighting, and even automotive.


The Al Packer Automotive Academy at Seminole Ridge Community High School is giving students the tools they need to be successful going into the workforce, while also saving them thousands of dollars on tuition.

Robert Bresnahan is a quick lane technician at Al Packer Ford in Royal Palm Beach.

"We top off all the fluids, rotate the tires, oil change, and check all the air pressures, too," Bresnahan said.

The recent grad from the automotive academy at Seminole Ridge likes getting his hands dirty.

"I always loved taking stuff apart, tinkering with it, you name it," Bresnahan said. "Whenever I heard they were looking for people to train over here, I was all in."

A new partnership between Seminole Ridge and Al Packer Ford now puts students like Bresnahan in the fast lane toward future careers.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for my students to go from the classroom to, as you can see, the garage bay with an iconic business in Palm Beach County," principal Bob Hatcher said.

The football stadium at Seminole Ridge now bears the Al Packer name. The company is investing in these automotive students, giving them guidance, support, and, ultimately, a place to work.

"I think the auto program was amazing before, but this just took it to an entirely different level," Bresnahan said.

In the shop at Seminole Ridge High School, senior Antonio Caputo is gearing up to start his job in the next few weeks.

"Not many kids would be able to have that opportunity and able to start a career out of high school with such a good company," Caputo said.

"Having programs like this to give them a technical background helps them get a leg up," Seminole Ridge teacher Michael Critchlow said.

Students can graduate with up to nine industry certifications, saving them thousands of dollars in trade school tuition and getting them ready for entry level jobs.
It's a driving factor for Hatcher.

"You can make a very good living and be financially successful without having a college degree, but with having work ethic, focus, and attention to detail," Hatcher said. "The sky is the limit if you are willing to work hard."

"I think it would definitely be tough to land a job like this if you did not have previous experience or course knowledge on this stuff," Bresnahan said.

So the next time you get your car fixed, know it could be a recent grad who worked under the hood.

"Some of the smiles on the customers' faces when they are like, 'Oh, I've been dealing with that for however long and you fixed it,' feels great," Bresnahan said.

Some Choice and Career Programs in the School District of Palm Beach County are in-house — like the automotive academy at Seminole Ridge — meaning they are for students who are zoned for that particular school.

You can apply for other programs, even if you are not zoned to go to that school.

For more information and details on the process and lottery system, click here.