#6 of 30in30: Automotive Technology students on fast track to employment

Automotive Technology students on fast track to employment

Lawrence Schwendeman, the head of J. Sargeant Reynolds Automotive Technology Program, has been helping provide technicians the skills to gain employment in Richmond for the past eight years. We had a chance to speak with him recently about the program, one of the largest in Virginia, and one where all students secure employment immediately after graduation.  

30-ways-in-30-days-logoWhat do automotive technology students learn?

There are three options:

  1. A one year full-time certificate program in automotive technology that prepares technicians to start in the industry at a reputable shop that does basic automotive maintenance;
  2. A two year associate’s degree program that prepares graduates to work in any shop, doing whatever is necessary to repair a vehicle; and a
  3. Career studies certificate than an the associate’s degree graduate can earn while studying cutting-edge hybrid and electric vehicle technologies. This program is designed for technicians already in the field who want further education.

Is there a high demand in the Richmond area for hybrid and electric vehicle technicians?

JSRCC-AutomotiveThere is a fairly good demand for hybrid electric car instruction. The Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi Miev – all purely electric cars – are coming to the Richmond area later this year so there will be more of a demand for technicians able to work on electric cars.

What is the benefit of learning how to repair hybrid and electric cars?

Their high voltage systems are much different and require additional education. There is a big safety factor there. The average technician today is dealing with a 12-volt electrical system, which has basically been on cars for the past 60 years. Hybrid and electric cars have 200-400 volt electrical system. Technicians who have this education are at an advantage because they can service these cars rather than turn them away, which increase business.

How do students benefit from the program after graduation?

Employment! We can’t fill the growing need for educated technicians in Richmond. Every one of the graduates has a job right away. The model is changing – years ago there weren’t programs to train technicians but that model doesn’t work anymore – employers want people with background knowledge to work on complicated issues.

These technicians can diagnose and repair vehicles. Rather than take your car to a shop several times, graduates from this program repair them the first time.

Editor’s Note: 30 Ways in 30 Days Virginia’s Community Colleges are Elevating Virginia is a month-long blog series dedicated to exploring some of the many creative and inspiring ways our colleges are helping people find and create opportunity. The series is part of the VCCS tribute to National Community College Month. To read more of the series just click on the “30 ways in 30 days” category.

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