Low Cost 2 to 4 Year College Education for Automotive Technology
Over the last year I have been working with other seasoned technicians and shop owners on a way to develop a rising generation of technicians. A huge problem faced by many who would want to come into this field is that their living situation does not allow them to take a 4 year break to attend the University or Trade School. At risk teens are many times required to work from age 16 - 18 to help support their family. In the family I grew up in, my Father was able to take care of our needs, however he could not afford to send us to College. I tried to work and go to school at the same time. My grades suffered and I just did not make enough at minimum wage. So this has been a problem for decades. How do we solve it?
A few years ago I had a conversation with my Daughter. She worked and got grants and scholarships to finish College. I, like my Father had enough to give my children the essentials but did not have the resources to pay of my Children's College. I told her that in today's internet age why do we still have to pay for live professors and brick and mortar. The academic portion of school could easily be taught online. I asked her why the University that she worked for charged the same for online classes as the live ones? She told me that professors still had to grade the papers. I think that given a choice, many students would opt for a less expensive online option and the classrooms would start to empty. Maybe that is the fear of Academia. It is not an interest in having an educated public but a fear for the loss of income.
Student Loans are a curse to many of our peers. Graduating College with $50K to $100K in debt is a huge burden on our youth. If you are going to be a Doctor, maybe it is worthwhile. If you are learning to be a technician, it is not a good deal. So what if we could properly prepare a technician? After graduation this technician is plug and play. How would we do this?
The vision I have for the new technician is going back hundreds of years and inserting 21st Century technology. When an individual expresses an interest in becoming a technician he or she is placed in a program that allows them to earn while they learn. Their first tasks will start in a Lube Center. There they will learn about how to change oil, rotate tires, inspect the vehicle, learn about fluids and the importance of using the correct fluids. Air Conditioning, Fluid Exchange, Battery Testing and Replacement. Along with these tasks, there is an academic element. They will be learning Math, English, History, Chemistry, Physics and all the same classes that they would get at University. This would all be done online. There would also be mentors available to monitor the progress of the students. These mentors could be retired individuals or paid.
After the Lube Center, the apprentice would move to a Tire Center. There they would work on undercar. Alignment, Tire Repair, Balancing, Shocks, Struts, Suspension, Driveline, Axles. The academic classes would continue during this phase.
From the tire center, the apprentice would move to Engines and Transmissions. At this point they would spend of their time working for automotive machine shops and transmission shops. Into to electrical diagnostics, learn about clutches, torque converters, bands, engine components, VVT, modern engines and so forth. academic classes would continue to support the shop learning.
The final section would deal with diagnostics. Although all the other sections would include diagnostic principals, this last section would give the technician upper level skills and critical thinking skills. Skills to learn to think beyond the trouble trees. This section would be taught both in academics and in the shop. There would also be courses in business management and accounting.
So by immersing the Student/Apprentice in the shop, he or she truly learns on the job. The focus is the vocation. Secondary yet still important is the education. The result is a well rounded individual with all the skills needed to get started.
What will it cost? I expect those who are going to benefit from the work to shoulder most of the cost. Meaning the Lube Centers, Tire Shops, Transmission Shops, Machine Shops and Full Service Shops. The student / apprentice will shoulder a portion of the burden. Otherwise I fear they would not appreciate the opportunity.
The biggest hurtle to overcome has been the Academic Learning. I just saw the model I had hoped to build on Linked In, uopeople.edu/tuition-free/w… By either working with them or duplicating their model this vision can be accomplished.
What are your thoughts?
The biggest hurdle you would need to overcome is many (not all) of the shop owners who won't sign on for a program like this. And they will still complain they can't find techs.
I would like to break this down a little. And no I'm not trying beat up on you. (-;
"The academic portion of school could easily be taught online."
Are you sure? Many online classes that I have been involved with involve reading and clicking. Most of those did not hold my attention for long. And those classes have a disproportionate failure rate as compared to face-to-face. Math classes, for example, frequently require remediation, and the typical online student will not seek it out.
I believe that we have made great strides in our partnership with Electude and the mating of hands on with their online software. It's way more engaging than watching the screen and just clicking. The learner actually has to do the hands on activity while engaged with the hardware.
There is a social component that we often overlook as well Michael. The learner often wants to engage with other learners; even if they say that they don't. (-; They're looking to be engaged and want to be a part of things. But they need to be guided.
College got expensive because the people were tired of paying for it through their taxes. Their will was done by legislators that demanded accountability (rightly so) and then cut the budgets anyway. When I left teaching, after twenty four years, the program had the very same consumable materials budget as it had in 1994. And no, this amount was never adjusted for inflation.
If we continue to underfund our professional technical programs we'll get more of what we are currently getting. Fewer and fewer qualified entry level applicants. There are some bright spots on the horizon, but not enough as far as I can see. We have a long way to go to overcome the deficits in the workforce and instructors to teach that workforce.
I certainly appreciate a diversity of voices on this subject. There is no perfect Scenario. I am not suggesting that the apprentice / students isolate themselves in the basement and do all their work in front of a computer screen. Social interaction is important. The student / apprentice would get this when working with the other technicians and management at the shop that he or she worked. Back in my College days, some of the lectures were given on TV. There was no interaction with the instructor. I could watch for about 10 minutes and I was lost. I did not do well with those classes. In contrast, the Khan academy has refreshed my math skills and taught me math principals that I did not "get" in my younger days. I would encourage all who read this to check it out. It is an example of how point and click can be challenging and fun.
I am a hands on learner. I first learned to work on automobiles by fixing my family vehicles. I lived on a farm, so there was always mechanical jobs to assist with. When I eventually went to College, I was pretty bored in the lab classes. The work we did in the labs was very basic. I did learn a great deal in the classroom setting. There was a revolution of technology going on. There was much learning that I would have missed out on had I only relied on figuring things out on my own. Classes dealing with technology are important. Having products like your company sells remain a great resource. Technical schools could provide targeted classes in addition to the traditional school model. I don't see technical schools going away.
In my opinion, throwing more money at the issue is not going to fix it. For the trades, we need to develop a more fiscally efficient way to get students up to speed. Maybe it is a mixture of traditional school and apprenticeship. Maybe the role of technical schools needs to be reworked. Thanks Jeff for your thoughts. I am glad you took the time to express them in a respectful way.
Hi Michael I’m am not familiar with the US apprenticeship system but here in Alberta (Canada), the apprentices are sponsored by an employer and registered with the apprentice board (managed by the government). They work for 10 months and go to school for 2 months. This goes on for four years before reaching the journeyman stage. Most decent employers will cover the cost for books and tuition and the apprentice receives unemployment benefits for the two school months. Government grants are also available to help the apprentices that can’t afford it.
That is very interesting. How it works in most parts of the USA is that if you say you are a mechanic, you are one. No school or training needed. Unless you are doing emissions testing, Air Conditioning or Alternative Fuels, no testing is required. There should be an apprenticeship system in the USA. We have technical schools but not everyone attends. I would prefer that the industry administer it. If they do not handle it, the government will eventually step in. I like that there are employers that pay for the education plus give practical experience. That is a good model to build on.
The problem I see with Canada and the USA is that technicians are not valued as they should be. They really should be making more money. You would think with a strict program it would raise the level of pay. I am just not seeing it.
Right now in our economy, a good HD tech will get from $40.00 (low end) to $55.00 (Finning Canada) an hour and auto tech might get a bit more, depending on the dealership. And the benefit packages are very good ( shares, medical, life insurance, pension or RRSP that the employer contributes to, bonuses, and whatever they need to attract good people)
Would you say that this is throughout the industry or just in government and fleet work? Some of the Canadians that have commented on Flat Rate in Canada have reported lower pay. In certain cases half of what you are reporting. I am very glad that the shops in Alberta have stepped up.
I can only confirm that this is the average for northern Alberta. I have talked with many local governments and dealerships in the last couple of years because I was requesting our council for wage adjustments for our techs, to be able to compete with the dealerships. It is getting hard to attract good technicians because they are in high demand up here.
When I first moved from being a technician and shop owner to instructor, I thought my new "customers" were the paying students. However in reality, the customers were the shop owners who would hire our students. So, I am convinced that unless these "customers" step up and get more involved in growing the next generation of technicians, there might not be a next gen.
I don't even know what the next generation will look like, will be trained on or how it will be paid, I just know the opportunity is there. It will look different in an hour than what it looks like now, but it will still be an opportunity.
And those who stand to benefit or lose the most from that outcome better get/stay involved in the process or don't complain when their business suffers.