A solid technical education is the foundation for the careers of both newbie and experienced automotive technicians. However, not all training programs bear the same weight with potential employers. Use the following tips to choose your training carefully.
For Beginners and the Unaffiliated
Auto technicians working in small, independent repair shops and those who have yet to enter the field have numerous training options. Alan Silverman, who oversees trade and technical training programs for the state of New York, suggests these aspiring technicians seek National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) certification. Secondary school students should also be on the lookout for schools in the Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) program. These schools are tied in with supporting automotive manufacturers, which include DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
"These programs are recognized across the country," Silverman says. "Students can take their certifications [from these affiliated programs] and go anywhere."
Advanced training for franchised dealer technicians will likely be determined by the dealership and the manufacturers whose products the dealership services. All auto companies have ongoing training programs, so if you work for a Toyota dealer, for example, you will get your training in accordance with the Toyota approach and curriculum.
Check for Certification
Not all training programs are the same, so check out the certifications of any school you are considering. Silverman notes that schools in the NATEF program are listed on the NATEF Web site. This nonprofit organization has certified auto-training programs in every state. It also evaluates training programs for technicians under the voluntary Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) certification program, which comes from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
If Certified Programs Are Not Available
Not every aspiring technician will have access to a certified training program. These hopefuls should guard against choosing a school based on the size of an advertisement, the length of an infomercial or the charm of the placement officer, who is often a salesperson. Here are some questions to ask a prospective school’s representative:
- Who are the teachers, and what are their qualifications?
- How often is the curriculum revised?
- What percentage of students graduate?
- What percentage of students find work in the field they are trained in?
- Which area employers have hired the school’s graduates?
- Are there any graduates who would be willing to talk to me about their experiences?
Ask the Employers
Jonas Zdanys, an associate commissioner of higher education for the state of Connecticut’s Department of Higher Education, suggests students do some additional checks. "Part of the process is to call potential employers first," he says.
Ask these employers if students graduating from the schools you are considering have been well equipped to handle the type of job you want to be hired to do.
Check the School’s Legitimacy
Zdanys also suggests you check to see that the school is properly licensed, the program is what you want and the price is competitive. In his state, schools authorized by his agency are listed on the department’s Web site.
As a final check, see if you can find some recent graduates and ask them about their experiences, both in school and once graduated. These are the people who are best able to determine just how on target their training was.
The Promise of Good Training
"Beginning [auto] technicians are well paid," Silverman says. "For people with top-notch training, there is good money."
The trick is to be one of those candidates. In many cases, that will involve college or technical-school training, Silverman notes. It will also require doing well in one of these recognized training programs.