Keeping automobiles on the road requires service technicians who know how to use the newest diagnostic, repair and maintenance technologies - and who get satisfaction from making things work.
The Automotive Technology Program at Ashland Community and Technical College offers a variety of choices for people for people seeking entry-level jobs as well as currently employed individuals who wish to enhance their skills.
"There are jobs out there right now, and I can put everyone to work who is serious about learning the technology," said Doug Vanover, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of ACTC. "I continuously get phone calls from dealers, independent garages and service centers that are looking for employees."
"Our graduates can make $23,000-$24,000 the first year and can work their way to $40,000 to$50,000 a year for flat-rate work," Vanover said.
The program offers hands-on training for people who like to work with their hands, although that hand work include using advance electronic systems as well as mechanical tools.
For Cody J. Wright, auto technology is the chance to go into business with his father. "My dad has a small garage and I want to work with him, he said."
Wright, a 2005 Boyd County High School graduate, started out taking some classes at an area university. "I tried office work and didn't like it. Since I like to work with my hands, I've decided that this is what I want to do."
A first semester student from the Catlettsburg, he came to ACTC because its close to home and has a quality program. "My brother came here came to the ACTC computer drafting and design program, and he liked it."
Eric C. Bird from the Bear Creek area in Boyd County sees auto technology as the chance to get paid for what I like doing. A native of the area and 1999 Boyd County High School graduate, Bird took the opportunity to get into the program with he was laid off as an accountant.
"I always liked working around cars, but theres so much more to learn - not only mechanics but electricity, electronics, diagnostics," Bird said. "The hands-on training here is great, and we have all the latest equipment. If you do it in the real world, we do it here."
Bird would like to work as an auto mechanic.
"What a lot of people dont understand is that there are so many possibilities in this program," Vanover said. "Students can focus on just one area of auto maintenance or repair and earn one certificate. Or they can work on several certificates for broader skills or they can earn a diploma or degree which will cover a wide range of knowledge and skills."
ACTCs Automotive Technology Program is certified by the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation. The organization uses nationally accepted standards of excellence in areas such as instruction, facilities, and equipment.
"Meeting strict industry standards means that students have added assurance of a quality education, and shop owners can be assured that they are getting quality job applicants," said Vanover
NATEF certification includes the following areas: brakes, electrical / electronic systems, engine performance, suspension and steering, automatic transmission and transaxle, engine repair, heating and air conditioning, and manual drive train and axles.
Students may choose from eight certificates that correspond to the ASE certification areas: Automotive Air Conditioning Mechanic, Automotive Electrician, Manual Transmission / Drive Train Technician, Automatic Transmission / Transaxle Technician, Brake Repairer, Engine Repairer, Front End Mechanic, and Tune Up Mechanic.
ASE training has practically become a requirement for good jobs, according to an October article in CollegeBound Network. Automotive techs can set themselves apart and speed past the competition by earning certifications.
"The more certificates our students complete, the more employable they become," Vanover said.
Students can combine their technical courses with general education courses for an Automotive Technician Diploma. The diploma can be especially useful to those who want to show a wide variety of skills, move into management or eventually run their own businesses.
Elliott Curry from Lavalette, WV is planning to get into the business end of auto technology. A 2005 graduate from Pocohantas County High School, he wants to start as a mechanic for a car dealership and work his way up to sales and service manager.
"I've always been around cars and like working with them, Curry said. I took businesses classes at Marshall Community and Technical College and looked on line for an auto technology program that offered hands-on training. So I came to ACTC."
He will graduate this December with an Associate of Applied Arts degree. "The degree will help me get in the door now and will help me qualify later for promotions," he said.
Certificate and diploma credits may be also applied to an Associate of Applied Science Degree in General Occupational/Technical Studies.
"Almost every industry is looking for people who have earned credentials after high school, and the auto service industry is no exception," Vanover said.
"We work with an advisory board of Advisory Board of local dealers and independent garage owners and community representative to make sure were teaching what employers want," Vanover said. "We are also ready to work with area employers one-on-one to get students who meet their needs."
"From an interest point of view, Automotive Technology is obviously a good field for those who like working with cars," Vanover added. "From a practical point of view, its also a good field for people looking for long term employment possibilities. To some extent, the field is recession proof, since car repairs and service will always be needed. And these jobs wont be outsourced."
Classes and labs are held at the Roberts Drive Campus. For more information about the Automotive Technology program or spring courses, contact Vanover at 326-2499 or email: email@example.com.