WNC News & Notes: High school students jump starting auto repair careers

Gain the knowledge and skills necessary to pass the Automotive Service Excellence industry certifications more and more auto repair shops are requiring of their employees. Jump Start an auto mechanics or auto body repair career as a high school junior or senior. Or perhaps helping restore a 1953 Cadillac sparks an interest.

Western Nevada College’s Automotive Mechanics/Automotive Auto Body departments offer individuals the training necessary to become employed by local repair shops.

Low education costs, accelerated training, industry certification preparation and certificates of achievement, job placement, a stable job market, decent pay and employment opportunities at a younger age are reasons to check out what WNC has to offer.

Becoming an auto mechanic doesn’t require a lot of time and resources. And the payoff for people who earn the industry certifications while training at WNC is a high rate of employment and steady work.

“If they do the ASE testing and get the certifications, they are for sure going to get an interview and are probably going to get hired,” said WNC Automotive Mechanics instructor Jason Spohr. “I get calls all the time from shops ready to hire a student right now. Our goal is to get students out in the workforce.”

Realizing Employment after Graduation

Since graduating last spring, Michael Atkinson has been able to find work at two local repair shops. After earning his Associate of Applied Science in Auto Mechanics, he became employed at All American Auto & Diesel in Gardnerville. He now works at Carson City Toyota with WNC grad Willie Jim.

“It was more or less my job contacts in the community that helped me get the job,” Atkinson said. “Dr. (Georgia) White (WNC’s director of Career and Technical Education) got me the interview at Toyota and Jason had called All American to get me the interview there.”

Going forward, Atkinson said it’s important for him to pass ASE industry exams. For the past month, Atkinson has been preparing to take steering and suspension, brakes and engine electrical exams.

“I’m trying to make myself as marketable as possible,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t forget too much from being in school and being in school was really helpful with what I had to study.”

High School Students Become Involved in Program

High school students became part of the WNC’s Automotive Mechanics program in 2016 and the college will welcome secondary education students for the Automotive Body program in the fall of 2017. Through accelerated training in Automotive Mechanics, some students can be prepared for a professional career in as little as two semesters of work.

“Jump Start for auto mechanics works for seniors who have a block of time in their high school schedules and are able to come to WNC’s campus,” Spohr said. “We’re hoping to continually get a good number of students who can do the full Jump Start program by coming to the college 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., then returning to their high school to finish their day. We can also take juniors if their credits are up to date and they are not behind in anything; otherwise, it won’t fit in their program.”

WNC Offers Comprehensive Auto Body Repair Training

Through a series of Automotive Auto Body classes, students will learn how to repair and reconstruct damaged vehicles and become a knowledgeable auto body and collision repair technician.

WNC offers Auto Collision I and II with practice, Auto Refinishing I and II with practice, and Plastic Composite and Adhesives and practice, as well as Auto Collision and Refinishing Estimating.

Those classes are scheduled during evenings to accommodate students who work during the day. However, WNC will offer Jump Start students daytime auto body and collision repair classes starting in the fall.

Spohr said local body shops are hiring entry-level workers.

“A body shop may say I just need someone with automotive knowledge and interest, so that it can work them into hands-on training and help them gain the experience to do body repair,” he said.

Students Train on Latest Equipment Used in Industry

Spohr said that WNC trains Automotive Mechanics students in nine specific areas, including electrical, engine reconditioning, brakes, steering and suspension, air conditioning, electronics, transmission and transaxles, engine performance/fuel and ignition, engine performance/emission control. Individuals who complete a 60-unit program will earn an AAS degree in Auto Mechanics Technology. Students may choose to spend half of that time in the classroom by pursuing a 31-credit track to earn a Certificate of Achievement in Auto Mechanics to increase their chance of employment.

A mix of textbook material and hands-on practices prepares the students to pass up to nine ASE student exams.

“The certifications are extremely valuable,” Spohr said. “To me, that’s their ticket to get into the door. When they bring that certification that they passed the ASE exams, there is not an employer out there that wouldn’t at least give them a try.

“We have and train on the exact type of equipment that they will use in the field and more. It is our job to make sure what the students are using is applicable and in many ways even better than what the industry is using.”

Having been through WNC’s program and secured work locally, Atkinson suggests students “definitely take their ASEs and build their contacts and resources for their résumés to get interviews and job offers.”

Student ASE exams contain half the questions of the professional-level exams. Once students become employed and demonstrate professionalism and competency, they’re supported to learn the dealership or shop’s specific certification training. That is the case at Carson City Toyota where Atkinson works. He and other technicians who take the professional ASEs are reimbursed for the exams they pass.

“If students have the student ASE certs, it demonstrates their competency and probability they will pass the full ASE,” White said.

WNC’s training will enable students to work on the latest vehicles and diagnostically repair sophisticated engine components.

“You lift a hood now, and you don’t even recognize anything. You lift a hood and there is a big plastic cover and that’s all you see. It’s become pretty technical,” Spohr said.

Auto Restoration Coming in Fall

But that doesn’t mean the department won’t work on older cars.

Spohr is excited that his department plans to offer a comprehensive auto restoration class starting in the fall. Their first project is restoring a 1953 Cadillac provided by Carson City developer and auto collector Garth Richards.

This class will cover mechanical and auto body repair.

“We’re going to involve engine repair, chassis, brakes, steering, suspension and the body shop classes at night,” Spohr said.

For more information about WNC’s Auto Mechanics and Automotive Body Repair programs, contact Jason Spohr at 775-445-4270 or Jason.spohr@wnc.edu. To learn more about WNC’s Career and Technical Education programs, phone 775-445-4272 or visit www.wnc.eu/cte/ or www.wnc.edu/now/.

WNC Jump Start College Program Recognized

Western Nevada College’s dual-credit Jump Start College program was recently selected as the ACT College and Career Readiness State Exemplar Award recipient.

ACT established the College and Career Readiness campaign in 2013 to recognize exemplary efforts by postsecondary institutions, employers, high schools and students

Now in its third year, WNC’s Jump Start College serves 13 high schools in seven school districts.

“We are especially thankful for the support of the superintendents, principals and high school counselors, without whose help this opportunity could never have been provided to the 400 current high school participants,” said WNC Dean of Student Services John Kinkella. “The Jump Start College students are dramatically exceeding all expectations — this fall attaining a 96 percent course completion rate and a 97 percent re-enrollment rate.”

Kinkella said Jump Start students have been accepted at University of Nevada, Reno; UNLV; Boise State; BYU; Cal Pol-San Luis Obispo; and Stanford, among others.

“Students’ success as transfer students is extremely gratifying,” Kinkella said. “A common theme is: ‘I already had college figured out by the time I arrived at the university.’ From the feedback we have received from the parents and students who have taken Jump Start over the past three years, the gains made in maturity and in their academic standing have been remarkable.”

“For these reasons, Western Nevada College is grateful to receive the recognition as the Nevada State Exemplar,” Kinkella said.

In being recognized as the Nevada State Exemplar, WNC will be considered as a potential national semifinalist by an ACT selection committee, which will determine four national exemplars.

Academic Leaders from Poland Visit WNC

Naturally, the relocation of some small and mid-size companies from Poland to Nevada means those business leaders are interested in what students are learning in the state’s colleges.

A delegation of Polish academic representatives, business leaders and dignitaries came to Nevada early in March for a trade mission. An eight-member academic group visited Western Nevada College on Tuesday, March 14, touring the manufacturing labs in the Reynolds Center.

WNC Vice President Robert Wynegar, Career and Technical Education Director Georgia White and Business Professor Robert Whitcomb spoke to the delegation about meeting the area’s growing workforce needs in advanced manufacturing and WNC’s partnership with business incubator Adams Hub, as well as the college’s mission of student success, institutional excellence and one college serving many communities.

Emily Howarth, WNC’s Electronics and Industrial Technology professor, gave the delegation a tour of the college’s Advanced Manufacturing labs.


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