10 Tips on Selecting an Automotive School

by on January 11th, 2015
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One of the biggest decisions you will make that will affect your automotive career is the school you select for your automotive training. This is a big financial and time commitment for you and your family. I have been involved in community college Automotive Programs and Private Occupational Colleges Automotive programs, (These are known as for profit schools by the educational system). I have judged the SKILLSUSA state finals in my state for many years.


Speak with automotive employers about the schools you are considering and get their view of the schools ability to give you the training they need to offer you a job, is number one. Speak to more than one possible employer is my advice. If they have an HR, speak with them about the schools you are considering. Ask the employer if any of his employees are graduates of any of the schools you are considering and speak with them. If no one in your job market area will hire or consider hiring anyone from schools you are evaluating to attend, then you need to eliminate them as considerations and select other schools. If after spending twenty to thirty thousand dollars on education, you should be able to gain employment in that industry. If the local job market is not hiring graduates from a school you are considering, then you know the investment will not lead to local employment.


Ask to speak with instructors before signing up for the automotive degree program. Check the credentials of the instructors teaching the classes. Some credentials you want to see, are; ASE Master Certification, L1, manufacturers training, and so on for diesel or automotive programs. Are these credentials current? Instructors should have a minimum of an associate degree in automotive technology. Where did they work in industry? How long did they work in industry? I find that instructors who come from the independent shop segment of the industry their teaching methods are influenced from that experience and instructors that come from the dealership environment will teach from that experience.


Make sure you understand the program and the degree you are going to receive. Some schools offer an Associate of Occupational Study (AOS) and others offer an Associate degree in Applied Science (AAS). These both have very different requirements. Some schools even offer a certificate program. The applied science will require traditional college level academics, math English etc. An associate of occupational studies has less of an academic requirement. You should always ask if the course credits are transferable and at what school will accept them. Some Private 0ccupational school credits are not accepted at colleges. Some schools will not recognize an AOS at all if you decide to change careers and go back to school. This could be a costly mistake if you do not understand credit hours and transferability.


School credentials are important also. Is the school associated with any vehicle manufactures? Do they offer a vehicle manufacturing training course to all students? Is the school NATEF compliant? Is the school ASE compliant? Do they have relationships with industry partners like Snap-on Tools, NAPA, and CARQUEST to name only a few of the many industry partners. Is the schools equipment and facility up to date? Is there an adequate facility for lots of hands-on activities? What is the school policy on student to instructor ratio? Some schools have classes of 30 or more students to one instructor. My opinion and experience dictates that this is not a good learning environment for any technical field of studies.


Books required for completing the course or courses of study in the program. Books are expensive and continually get updated by publishers and authors. Does the school have a used book program? Is the school going to eBook technology? What is the cost associated with these requirements? Do you need online access to a computer? Does the school have a method of financing these requirements? Is the text the latest version for the studies you are taking?


Talking with the admissions representative at the school is very tricky and you must be prepared to keep the meeting on track. Do not get blinded by the sales pitch on the school. Ask for everything in writing. Most school tours are staged by the admissions department to excite the potential candidate. Some schools talk about elective programs that cost extra money and you must complete the basic courses first. Most of these elective are not courses required for entering the automotive trade. I call these the sizzle courses. Ask about the percentage of lecture to hands-on split in the courses. After all automotive is very hands-on trade and students need this as much as lecture time to gain the skills to enter the trade. What is the time to completion? Financial aid needs need to be discussed in detail also. Most students get blinded by the fact that the bill can be deferred up to 6 months after graduation. You are making a bill that must be paid back! It is your money not the schools. Make sure you track this very closely for over billing and such.


Career placement assistance should definitely be discussed. What are the schools placement numbers? Can you speak to some of the employers who have hired graduates that the school placed directly? I can tell you first hand that I witnessed a career service person talking about hunting down students and finding out where they work and going there and getting placement papers signed along with job verifications. So the numbers are not good enough for reference to back up placement.


Once you have narrowed down the school or schools ask if you can audit some classes during normal sessions. This will give you access to students and staff to evaluate the schools some more before making the commitment. You will find that current students will be more than willing to share information about the school and the experiences they are having.


Ask if the school is focused on discipline or education? A school that focuses on discipline is not focused on education. Signs to look for are students are not happy. You see little to no interaction with faculty. Ask students if the school is meeting their training needs or more worried about attendance and dress code. Ask if the school has an attendance problem? This will be a good sign that students are not happy about their education there.

TIP 10

Speak with the program chair or supervisor. Find out what his goals are for students to achieve their goals of learning automotive. A good chair or supervisor interacts with the students in a positive way and knows many of the students by name. His office door is always open. My office at the school I chaired was always full of students and was always open to students to just sit and talk.

I hope these 10 tips help you organize a plan to approach schools who offer automotive training. Interviewing them is just as important as them interviewing you. Setting out to accomplish something is awesome and that includes a good school to accomplish it at!

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