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Pettus gives back to the community through UniTec

Joe Pettus, center, owner of Pettus Automotive Group, recently presented a $16,300 check to the UniTec Foundation in Bonne Terre. Submitted photo

The owner of a local auto group is giving back to the program that he says helped make him who he is today.

Joe Pettus, owner of Pettus Automotive Group, recently presented a $16,300 check to the UniTec Foundation in Bonne Terre to aid in the construction of a new 8,000-square-foot annex building at the Career Center.

The Annex Building will be used to accommodate the rapid growth within the Welding and Construction programs at the Career Center.  To raise the funds, Pettus pledged $100 for every vehicle sold during the month of May. Pettus Auto Group has five dealerships in the Parkland area, including Desoto, Farmington, Festus, Fredericktown and Ste. Genevieve.

As a student, Pettus attended Uni-Tec Career Center in Bonne Terre for two years, where he studied mechanical repair. He was one of the first students to enroll in a work-study program where he worked part-time during the day as part of his UniTec program requirements.

It was through that program that Pettus was able to get involved in something he had a passion for — automobiles. According to his wife, Shawna, Pettus has always been an automotive enthusiast.

“He actually sold his first car at the age of 12,” she said. “He brought it from a junkyard with his own money. With the help of his older brother, they made some minor repairs and got it all cleaned up. He then parked it outside with a for sale sign on it, and it sold the very next day — and for a large profit!”

That first sale was just the beginning. Pettus said UniTec gave him the opportunity to gain valuable skills and allowed him to obtain gainful employment following graduation. He has continued to use those experiences and the mentorship he received at UniTec to grow his business.

The UniTec program worked well for a student like Pettus, who is more of a hands-on learner. He believes vocational schools help bridge the gap between work and education.  His experience at UniTec and vocational schools, in general, has increased his skill development and employability.

In the same way that UniTec helped him, he believes vocational training can create value for students who will graduate with real-life working skills, increase their chance of finding a job following graduation and build strong professional networks. Gaining confidence prior to graduation gives vocational students a step up when they enter the workforce with an increased feeling of confidence.

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