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High school class hopes to close skilled trades gap

The auto shop class at Patagonia High School is fixing up a 1998 Jeep Cherokee
Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-08 11:22:08-05

PATAGONIA, Ariz. (KGUN) — Ever been in a class in high school where you wondered, "When am I ever going to use this in real life?"

For one class of students at Patagonia High School, this isn’t the case.

It looks like your average auto shop, with people working on a car that needs to get back on the road.


But is actually a high school class, and part of Arizona’s push to get more young students interested in a career in trades

“They’re fixing it up, putting in new parts," Allen Roberts, a senior at the high school said.

He's talking about the 1998 Jeep Cherokee up on the lift.

Jeff Gudenkauf is teaching this group of high schoolers to fix it up.


“I served in the military for 13 years as a heavy wheel mechanic," Gudenkauf said.

The short-term goal is to get the Jeep running again, and auction it off, with all the money going back into the program.

“Now it’s one of my passions, I love it," Roberts said.

The long-term goal is to reduce the shortage of skilled trades workers in Arizona.

Gudenkauf tells students a trade can be more valuable than a degree as times and needs have changed.

“There was a push in schools, even when I was in school in the '80s, to go to college, go get a degree," Gudenkauf said. "Realistically a four-year degree in 1980 is totally different economically than what it will cost you now.”

But for now the focus is on getting the car to run again, and teaching the value of hard work.

“The look in their eyes, like, 'That’s me, I did this.' That’s what I shoot for," Gudenkauf said.

This program runs completely off of donations, so if you have a part, tool, or a car you’re willing to donate to the Patagonia High School you can email Jeff Gudenkauf at