CareerPath of Thomas Caban: The Trade School Route

August 22, 2021 – Camden, New JerseyThomas Caban is a bright young man of Puerto Rican descent. Thomas lives in Camden, New Jersey. He is also a recent high school graduate. Thomas is in the midst of transitioning from high school to the world of competitive employment. Thomas is forgoing the college path and taking the trade school route. This is really not surprising to anyone that knows Thomas. From the time he took his first steps, Thomas has been an inquisitive and eager boy with a strong love for cars.

John Donofrio, Service Manager at Mall Chevrolet and Thomas Caban

Thomas has decided to pursue a careerpath that would lead to employment as an automotive repair technician. He enrolled in the Dreamchasers Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program last fall. Thomas expects Dreamchasers to help him navigate the complex process of becoming a certified automotive tech and obtain entry level employment as an auto technician once training is complete.

Thomas at Mall Chevrolet WBLE

While we discussed and explored other industries, his commitment to the auto industry never wavered. Thomas, his brother in-law and his father are all passionate about cars. His brother in-law is a certified truck mechanic and his father builds and races cars. Thomas is all in on the automotive industry. It’s in his blood.

Thomas during visit to Camden County Automotive Repair Program

Thomas is ready to work. He possesses the traits and skills that employers seek from most employees. Thomas worked as a cart attendant at Home Depot for more than six months, October 2020 – May 2021. Through direct observation of his work and discussions with his supervisors and co-workers it is apparent that Thomas has strong readiness skills. Thomas demonstrates the soft skills and employability skills desired by employers. Moreover, he has demonstrated an ability to identify and obtain entry level competitive employment. He currently works part-time in the maintenance department at the Bancroft School. He works 5pm to 9pm five days per week. He earns in excess of $16.00 per hour. Thomas has zero debt and lives with his parents.

Thomas is stable and seeks to begin his career as an auto technician. Thomas is determined to work in the US automotive repair and maintenance services industry. The Dreamchasers Pre-ETS program will assist him in determining where he will train and work. The US auto repair industry includes about 162,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $115 billion. There will always be a demand for repairs of cars. Thomas has chosen an in-demand industry.

Work-Based Learning Experience

Dreamchasers encourages Thomas to think about where he fits in this huge industry. The Pre-ETS program provides Thomas with extensive guidance as he gathers information and makes important educational and vocational choices. Toward that end, Thomas participated in a work-based learning experience at Mall Chevrolet in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Dreamchasers used the 15 bay service department of the largest volume Chevrolet dealer in Southern New Jersey to provide Thomas with the knowledge and skills that will help him connect school experiences to real-life work activities. Thomas was exposed to a fast paced, busy state of the art service repair operation for more than six weeks. He worked as an unpaid intern from 8am to 12pm, Monday through Wednesday.

So… Thomas, you say you want to be an auto technician? Dreamchasers put you next to auto technicians for six weeks to make sure that’s what you want to do. Are you still sure? You see the pace of the work? You see the technological knowledge requirements. You see how they apply mathematical skills to complete tasks as necessary? You see how they have to read and interprets repair manuals and documents? You will have to work hard Bro…

If you are sure you want to go down this path, we’re with you.

It was essential that Mall Chevrolet was the direct employer in the work-based learning experience. This ensured in-depth student engagement. Thomas reported to work just like everyone else in the service department. This opportunities was meant to engage, motivate and augment the learning process. Dreamchasers provides these work-based learning experiences in conjunction with private, for-profit, public or nonprofit businesses throughout New Jersey and through web-based resources.

Developing Strategies for Smooth Transition-High School to Automotive Training

Dreamchasers supports smooth transitions from high school to postsecondary education (PSE) by assisting with the following:

  • documenting academic accommodations
  • advocating for needed accommodations & services
  • promoting use of executive function skills
  • assisting with researching career & PSE options
  • promoting participation in PSE preparation classes, etc.
  • connecting to PSE resources/ services/websites
  • promoting use of self-advocacy skills
  • assisting with application/ enrollment process
  • identifying financial aid options
  • familiarizing with education and vocational laws
  • identifying technology needs
  • identifying admission tests accommodations
  • applying for Vocational Rehabilitation services, if eligible
  • providing PSE information to family members
  • accessing services & supports from developmental/ intellectual disabilities service agency, if eligible

Dreamchasers fosters maximum flexibility in the career decision making process, especially in the early phases of Post-Secondary Education (PSE) planning.  We tried to get Thomas to consider alternate careerpaths. He is very firm in his decision to become an auto technician. He was exposed to wide range of career pathway options and labor market realities and projections. Thomas made his decision and embarked upon the search for a training program that could help him reach his goal.

Thomas visiting Training Programs

Support While in the Training Program

Dreamchasers is steadfast in our commitment to self-determination. We strongly adhere to the belief that all individuals have the right to direct their own lives. Young people who have self-determination skills have a stronger chance of being successful in making the transition to adulthood, including employment and independence. Dreamchasers will continue to provide Thomas with extensive instruction in selfadvocacy. The goal will be to improve his ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his/her own interests and/or desires. Dreamchasers wants to see Thomas have the freedom to plan his own life, pursue the things that are important to him and to experience the same life opportunities as others in their communities.

Dreamchasers Instruction on Self-Advocacy includes:

  • self -awareness
  • decision making
  • set goals
  • evaluate options
  • identify independence
  • accommodations
  • request & utilize accommodations
  • know your rights & responsibilities
  • self-determination
  • know how to request & accept help
  • intrinsic motivation
  • taking a leadership role
  • in support plans
  • assertiveness
  • listen to others opinions
  • problem solving
  • monitor progress
  • positive self-talk

Thomas has made his decision, he applied for admission to Respond, Inc.’s Automotive Repair Program. Dreamchasers will be right there with Thomas as he makes his way though this rigorous and rewarding program.

Do you want to LEARN2WORK?

Trying to figure it out?


Delgreco K. Wilson

Dreamchasers Community Services, LLC

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS Program) – email

929-499-7999 – telephone

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