Beyond the Classroom and TextbooksPosted 8/18/2006
By Lisa McReynolds
CARS events supplement students' classroom instruction.
ASA began promoting CARS to its educational members in 2003. "We wanted to broaden the reach of CARS after two automotive instructors - who were already attending the event each year - suggested that ASA should really promote this great opportunity to its educational members," said Bill Haas, ASA's vice president of education and training.
The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) requires that instructors of automotive training programs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) must have 20 hours per year of continuing education related to their programs. Attending CARS gives these instructors the training they need to teach their students to be leaders in this industry. ASA wanted to offer a more affordable registration price to these educators. "We wanted to find a way to make it easy for the educators to attend," Haas said.
The experience of the training classes, seminars and networking with exhibitors was too great an opportunity for the instructors to keep solely for themselves. In 2004, instructors Dan Beeson and Paul Wallace from Bellingham Community College in Bellingham, Wash., chose to bring their students along for the ride.
"Not only is it a fun and life-changing opportunity for my students," Beeson said, "the training available in one place is valuable."
Whether they grew up with siblings in the industry or not, these students have found a love for working on automobiles. While attending Bellingham Community College, they have studied the vehicles they will be servicing one day. From lectures to PowerPoint presentations to hands-on activities, students in the classroom have a vast array of information available to them about the automotive service industry. Whether it's old or new, gas or electric, students will be ready when the challenge of repairing an automobile is in front of them.
The experience of attending CARS opened new doors for the students. At CARS, they were exposed to industry professionals who have years of experience and have seen the face of automotive technology change many times. The technical classes reassured them of knowledge they received at the college and exposed them to new repair techniques. Whether the students become technicians or shop owners, the management seminars provided valuable information on managing a repair shop, the importance of good communication and how to establish priorities. The exhibitor showcase gave the students an opportunity to talk to companies about their current products and services.
Women in the Industry
Today, there are many changes being made to automobiles and the automotive service industry that appeal to women. For that reason, more women are seeking careers in automotive service.
"My experience at CARS was awesome," Ashley Garcia said. "It taught me some valuable information about the automotive service industry and its advances in the technological field.
"I'm going to school for automotive work because I've found it's the only thing I really enjoy doing," Garcia said. "It's so much fun to figure out what's wrong with people's cars and then fix it. It's basically a big puzzle that challenges you daily."
Opportunities are available for anyone who has a desire for automotive repair work. With women's natural ability for details, they make excellent technicians. Women technicians often have the characteristics that help them in complicated diagnostic work.
"At school we don't have a lot of time to learn about hybrids," Reidell said. "The hybrid class is one that sticks in my mind."
Many of the students enjoyed the "Advancing Down the Hybrid Highway" class taught by Craig Van Batenburg, AAM. Hybrids are becoming more of a hot topic because of high gas prices. Shops and technicians are starting to specialize in them more and more. Finding other ways to fuel cars is another pertinent issue (see "Alternative Fuel Technologies" in the May issue of AutoInc.). As automotive technology continues to change, CARS will continue to bring updated information and solutions to future technicians, like the ones from Bellingham Community College.
"CARS has the best of the best trainers and course offerings that are pertinent to current industry issues," Beeson said.
When the students weren't taking notes in a class or seminar, they had a chance to mingle with industry professionals during the CARS industry reception, luncheons, dinners and exhibitor showcase. At the luncheon, keynote speaker Patrick T. Grady expressed how important it was to have a positive attitude and work toward providing great customer service. These two things can make or break a business and are important to those just coming into the industry.
"It [Grady's presentation] was very informative and the food was amazing," Matt Kennedy, a student, said.
It's not all about business at CARS. There is room for fun, food and giveaways as well.
The students took time to browse through various exhibitor showcase booths for a chance to talk to vendor companies and see what's new. Lectures, reading books and multimedia presentations can only go so far. CARS provided the students with a great opportunity to network with experienced professionals and "pick their brain." They especially enjoyed seeing the "up and coming" automotive technology that they will get to use in the near future. The information and examples can be overwhelming at first, but the students walked away confident and excited about their future in automotive repair.
"It's the best convention I've ever been to," Matt Simmons, student, said. "I have information for future hybrid vehicles and a better understanding of new equipment functions."
Because ASA is committed to serving its members and providing quality education, educators have been offered a reduced price to register for CARS. Educators can now bring students along for a reasonable cost. There are special criteria the students must meet to be eligible for this special price. For more information on criteria and pricing, please contact Carol Dennis with ASA at (817) 358-5220, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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