Story, photos, video by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
The automotive industry needs skilled workers, and a new West Seattle facility is dedicated to educating them.
It’s the Steve and Sharon Huling Automotive Technology Center on the main campus of South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) on Puget Ridge, and a ceremony this afternoon celebrated its long road to reality – the plan has been traveling that road for more than a decade (we covered a “future home of …” sign-placement event at the site in 2011).
Now it’s built and open, and carries the names of the couple who have been major SSC benefactors for decades, with a special link to automotive-tech education because of their longtime family business. In honor of the occasion, Mayor Bruce Harrell proclaimed today to be “Steve and Sharon Huling Day,” according to a proclamation read at the event by SSD’s interim president Dr. Jean Hernandez:
Tours of the new 50,000-square-foot facility, which has actually been in service for months, followed speeches by college leaders and supporters, the Hulings, and even a graduate. We recorded it all on video:
Among the speakers, faculty member Doug Clapper emphasized how badly needed the facility is. “We’ve got more jobs than students right now.”
He recalled the facility plan being “first scratched out” as “a dream” that finally came true. It’s a program where the dream of a better life became reality through education and employment for graduate JoAnna Edwards. Her words of gratitude were full of emotion as she told those gathered, “You gave me the opportunity – I snatched it and ran with it.”
She went back to school at 36, a mom of three, a person who had struggled with rough times. “I was always waiting for somebody to rescue me; this school taught me how to rescue myself.” Now she has a new career and a job at an Eastside dealership.
A college supporter/adviser and local industry entrepreneur, Todd Ainsworth of Swedish Automotive (WSB sponsor), was another of those who noted the industry had a shortage of new workers. He was also a former student, mentioning a connection with SSC going back to when he took apprenticeship classes there.
And, addressing the Hulings, Ainsworth offered a comment that many a longtime West Seattleite could echo – “My family bought cars from your family!”
Seattle Colleges‘ interim chancellor Dr. Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, who previously led SSC as president, talked about how having a new, modernized facility can inspire students as well as enhancing their education. “You bring people in who may not have a sense of what they want to do, then they walk into a place like this and say, ‘THIS could be my classroom?’.”
She also noted the Hulings’ support for the college’s 13th Year Promise scholarships, dating back long before that became a city-backed program. The Hulings themselves (whose children were there for the occasion) offered words of gratitude as well as praise for the program.
Steve Huling pointed out that the industry is continuing to innovate – “an industry that’s just starting to reinvent itself, with electric cars.” To underscore that point, several EVs from Lucid Motors were on display at the event.
(It was noted that’s what the Hulings drive.) In addition to high-tech equipment, the new building also has art:
“Oil Bloom” by Will Schlough, made from recycled oil drums painted into a flower, is over the staircase in the building’s foyer; the artist was there (lower-left corner of the photo above) to answer visitors’ questions.
Overall, dean of hospitality and service occupations Brian Scheehser, who emceed this afternoon’s event, declared the new center “an incredible learning space for our students.”
You can find out more about the Automotive Technology program at SSC by going here.