Maintaining the Machines That Move Us
Students accepted into the GM ASEP and Ford ASSET programs train on the latest automotive technology — with a job waiting for them after graduation
David Adkins, Patrick Reed and Josh Anderson are training to become automotive technicians at Cuyahoga Community College. But if you drop in to see them and their classmates at the Western Campus, you’re more likely to find them huddling over a computer screen than an engine block.
“In the auto repair industry, brand loyalty is huge nowadays,” Reed said. “For us, GM has a lot of things set up specific to them, and you have to kind of learn the language, learn how to run diagnostics, learn to think problems through sequentially for their cars. In our program, you get a lot more of that than you would in a regular auto tech class.”
Welcome to life in the GM Automotive Service Educational Program, or ASEP. For the past 28 years, Tri-C has offered the program to students interested in a career servicing GM cars and trucks.
“You learn things here that you can’t learn on other vehicles,” Anderson said. “You can keep up on recalls, bulletins, any type of updates that are specific to GM. You’re kind of immersed in that environment, and it’s a big help.”
With financial support from area GM dealers and vehicle donations from GM, students have the opportunity to learn on the latest technology GM has to offer. But getting into the program isn’t as simple as applying, and succeeding in a GM auto tech career isn’t as simple as knowing about pistons, valves and belts.
The amount of technology packed into a car or truck that rolls off an assembly line in 2018 is unprecedented. On average, a current model year car has 20 different computer systems on board, controlling and monitoring engine performance, collision avoidance, traction control and a host of other things. Diagnosing and fixing problems under the hood requires technological skills and savvy like never before.
Once typecast as manual labor, auto repair has become a thinking man’s — and woman’s — profession.
Many automakers have a training program similar to GM ASEP. Ford’s program is called Automotive Student Service Educational Training, or ASSET. Tri-C will offer the program beginning this fall at the Advanced Automotive Technology Center (AATC), which is undergoing a massive expansion and renovation to its lab facilities, in part to accommodate the arrival of Ford ASSET.
The aim of Ford ASSET is similar to GM ASEP — train students in the equipment and processes necessary to repair their vehicles. Ford and GM develop and revise their respective programs’ curricula. It’s up to Tri-C to teach it and to find students who are qualified and committed to a two-year associate degree program.
There is a unique twist to how GM ASEP and Ford ASSET operate when compared to a standard auto tech program. Instead of going to school, getting a degree and finding a job, students seeking entry into the Ford and GM programs must first find a dealership willing to hire them as an apprentice. Once hired, they can then enter the program.
The hire-to-enroll model facilitates a partnership between Tri-C and the dealership. Each semester, students spend eight weeks working in the labs and classrooms at the AATC on the Western Campus and another eight weeks training at the dealership with experienced auto techs.
It also means students have a full-time job at the dealership awaiting them after graduation. In the AATC lab, students proudly wear the uniforms of their employers as they move among the various vehicles sitting in the workstations.
“There aren’t many programs that can give you a secure job right out of school,” said Adkins, who works at Serpentini Chevrolet in Strongsville. “That’s a huge advantage of being in ASEP.”
Kitty McCarthy, director of the auto tech program, often refers interested students to dealerships for an initial interview, but after that, success is predicated on each student’s work ethic and mastery of the material. Slots are limited, and the program is rigorous. In addition, there are prerequisites for consideration.
“Students have to demonstrate proficiency in college-level math and English to be considered,” McCarthy said. “They can’t apply until they’re in or past 1000-level math and English.”
Once enrolled, students in GM ASEP are either in class or at the dealership Monday through Friday, year-round for 21 months.
“We want students who really want to work on GM vehicles,” said Tri-C instructor Ted Schafer. “The commitment level is key. It’s much more involved than a regular auto tech program, where you might only be in school part-time each day.”
But the commitment of time is well worth it to the students in the program. Not only do they have a full-time job waiting for them upon graduation, they have the beginnings of a career that is in demand. There are dozens of GM and Ford dealers throughout Northeast Ohio, many of which are expanding their service departments and looking for new auto techs trained to work on the cars they sell.
And if they move to a new city?
“I’ve had ASEP graduates who have moved down south or out west,” McCarthy said. “They found a dealer in the area they’re moving to, called them up, said they were an ASEP graduate and looking for a job, and they were hired soon after. That’s how much demand there is for qualified auto techs.
“I anticipate it will be much the same with Ford ASSET. These are two great programs, and we’re all excited that Tri-C will be able to offer both of them now.”
July 17, 2018
Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org