Charlie Rose, Automotive Instructor at Waltham High School, Waltham, MA, says he’s been around the industry long enough that he has seen some significant changes – yet he’s still excited to share what’s next with his proteges.
Rose is the January 2022 semi-finalist in the B’laster and Tomorrow’s Technician Instructor of the Year program.
Charlie Rose’s journey started when he was in high school and he is proud that has come full-circle. “I graduated in 1978 from the automotive program at nearby Medford Vocational School,” he says. “I had some great teachers. We were a full-service shop, just like the way I try to run this one, where it mirrors industry. From there, I spent a lot of time in dealerships. I was master certified with Chrysler for a good part of 30 years.
Rose says that in the other years he was in the trade, he had a variety of jobs. “I owned my own business, worked for engine rebuilding shops, transmission rebuilding shops, independents, you name it. I got quite a bit of experience from all of those different areas, so it’s helped me tremendously in my transfer into the teaching industry.”
Rose says some of what brought him back to the teaching industry was self-preservation – though only to an extent. “The body can’t take a long time in this trade – eventually, you see a lot of long-term injuries, that you just can’t recover from. That wasn’t exactly the case for me, though I did have a neck injury due to lifting parts over hoods. But I felt it was time to make the transition into helping the next generation of technicians to take over the torch, to come along the vehicles of today.”
Because he entered the teaching world directly out of industry, he was able to bring current technology into the classroom, something that some of his fellow instructors at the time weren’t savvy with, due to the rapid change of technology and the traditionally slow pace of curriculum modifications.
“I was able to give those kids information about today’s cars,” says Rose. “I remember asking one of the other teachers about what was going on with an electronic throttle control. He had come from carburetors and probably made the leap to throttle body injection, but no further. I had today’s cars in my head, and it’s great to be able to pass that on and know that these kids are going to be taking things to the next level.
Rose says part of the challenge he faced when he became a teacher wasn’t simply overcoming outdated attitudes – it was dealing with outdated components as well.
“One of the challenges that I faced was everything in here was old. We had distributors with points in them; drum brakes; we had bins full of parts from yesterday’s cars. I bring it up in class, but I don’t dwell on it because it’s not how cars are today – everything’s gone computer now.”
Rose says he has been able to build his classroom into a full-service automotive program. “We have a straight up shop that is everything I’ve had in the field and more. I run it just like I would a regular automotive program, including using cases of B’laster product during the year!”
Rose says the real lesson is proper automotive technique. “I teach the kids ‘complaint, cause, and correction,’” he says. “I just made a mock vehicle, put it on the board, told them what was wrong with it, and they needed to determine the complaint, cause and correction. I tell them, that’s how you get paid.”
In order to build a first-class program, Rose says he needed to overcome student ambivalence. “The first year I came in, the kids were just, for lack of better of a term, wild. Doors were broken, windows were broken in cars out back. One of the instructors had quit and so they tried a forceful instructor – unfortunately, the kids rebelled. They were just out of control, and they were not learning. Some of the kids who did want to learn were just leaving the classroom every day and going up to the office, and just sitting with the office personnel. When I came in, I had an advantage because, first of all, I have longevity in the field, and I was able to press that on them. I told them, ‘Look guys, I have over 35 years’ experience in the field – I am going to hand you a career. All you need to do is trust in me, show me respect, I’ll show you respect, and I will put every one of you to work.’” Rose recalls.
Rose says he dedicated his full time the first week to the classroom and the students. It wasn’t long, he recalls, before the dividends were visible. “At the end of the week, one of the students said to me, ‘Mr. Rose, it looks like the train’s back on the tracks.”’ And I have to tell you, that made me feel really good about teaching. That was a great segue into the teaching world for me, in a public school system.”
To support his classroom efforts, Rose says he began looking for books that could help him explain the opportunities existing in the industry. “I wanted the students to understand what the field was like – I went to libraries, bookstores, different places. There are a million how-to books out there, but no books about the trade itself. So, I went to a lot of my friends in the field looking for stories and I did not get any. They all said they would, but I didn’t get any stories from anybody else. I wasn’t really looking for the stories so much as I was their experiences in the trade. And I said to myself, ‘I have enough experience in my head, I’m going to write one.’
Rose says that over the next year and a half he would occasionally work on his book. “Picking it up, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down – this story, that story, something would come into my head at 11 o’clock at night, I’d write it down. I just started writing about what my students could expect in the field. I was trying to make it required reading over the summers.”
Rose recalls that, while he was working on the book, one of his colleagues in the high school’s English department reached out with a request. “She told me she had one of my students in her class. ‘We have reading every Friday and this student will not read,’ she told me. ‘I’ve tried all kinds of automotive books. Do you have any recommendations?’ I said, I don’t know if it’ll help, but I’ll send along what I have written so far in my book. They both told me that he couldn’t put it down – it was one of the only things that he would read. So, that felt pretty good for me.”
Rose says his school ended up buying multiple copies of his book, Growing up Automotive. For other instructors interested, the book is currently available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Rose says one of his other accomplishments has been the development of the Girls In The Trade program, a mentorship program designed to boost morale and build the industry.
In my first year, I noticed that there weren’t many girls in any of the trades in my school. And it is a male-dominated field. I had some female friends from the industry who were willing to come to the school and talk to these girls about what to expect in the trade.”
Rose says he had to pause the program because of COVID restrictions. “I had to stop it since they didn’t want anybody coming to the school. But I had a girl recently call me and ask when we are going to run that program again because people have told her about it.”
His goal, he says, is to create a board to counsel the girls who want to be in the trades but are afraid to. “That’s really what I want, for it to be a safe, inclusive environment. I don’t want there to be intimidation or a fear factor for why they are not coming into any of these trades.”
Rose says his goal of exposing his students to all segments of industry get a huge assist from the Army recruiting station in Waltham. “They bring their mechanics, they bring a couple of big vehicles in, including Humvees and Light Troop Transport vehicles and they’ll talk about the differences between regular automobiles and their vehicles, and what the opportunities can be in the Army,” Rose explains.
“I have the motorcycle guys come in; the marine industry; aviation as well. I’ll bring in anyone I can to try to expose students to everything.
Rose says his diverse classroom instruction is proving to pay off for his students taking their ASE test.
“I’ll let them test however many times they want to, whatever test they want to take. Some of them get eight or 10 of them. It’s a sense of pride for them and inspiration to the younger students but it’s much more than that,” Rose says. “In fact, one of my students who graduated two years ago went in for a job at a local town here, and because he had the ASEs and because he had his OSHA 10 certification, he was able to get a dollar an hour for each of those. So instead of starting at $22 dollars an hour, he started at $28 or $29 dollars an hour.”