Garage offers tools, real world experience
Automotive technology majors Frady Jomanend (left) and Juan Cardenas (right) service a wheel bearing during their Automotive 106 course in the Automotive Technology Center garage on Monday. George Morin / The Advocate
Students at Contra Costa College are not taking full advantage of programs that give certificates of completion and help with immediate job placement, student Donald Sayvong said.
Sayvong has completed his general education at CCC and is enrolled in one of two automotive certification programs offered at the college, expecting to become a certified mechanic through the courses he has been taking in the Automotive Technology Center.
CCC offers a collision repair program and an automotive technician service program, classes for both of which are taught in the ATC.
Sayvong said that there are many opportunities in landing a job through the automotive industry and that an individual does not necessarily have to complete an associate degree or accomplish a bachelor's degree to meet such opportunities.
"I really wasn't into cars (to begin with)," Kevin Guillen, a CCC alumnus who is currently in the process of becoming a certified mechanic, said. "When I was a kid my uncle and I took apart a car and we fixed it. I was hooked on cars ever since."
Guillen said that students are free to explore the "other side" of the education system and complete degrees in their desired majors, but that if they want to seek a mechanic career in the automotive field, a certification is absolutely necessary.
After taking a fundamentals class on basic car mechanics at CCC, he knew that a certification was missing in order for him to get paid "good money," he said.
"My uncle has a shop now," Guillen said. "With my experience and a certificate I can immediately work there, or at a dealership."
Automotive department Chairperson Lucile Beatty said that there are currently four local dealerships seeking students who are certified and are ready for work.
Beatty said Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen dealerships located near the Hilltop Mall have made contact with her about potential job placements for CCC students enrolled in a certified automotive program.
"I called past students who've completed the program successfully to see if they were interested," she said. "Right now we're in the process of submitting even more applications to these car dealerships."
She said she has maintained contact and a good relationship with these dealerships since she began teaching part-time at CCC in 2004.
She said "times are changing," but that the foundational core of learning a craft and applying those tools are the key to students getting jobs.
"After I graduated, I received numerous phone calls for employment," Laura Salas, CCC alumnus who worked as a mechanic's apprentice for three years, said.
Now Salas is a business partner with Black Diamond Collision Center in Pittsburg.
"In my time at CCC, every single class gave me a trait that I use now in the work field," she said.
Beatty said that while the ATC provides a unique training environment with five lifters, huge garages and a countless number of car parts and tools, the department still acknowledges there is even more room for growth and improvement.
The ATC is currently pursuing certification through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), she said.
"This would certainly give our students an edge," she said.
The ATC at CCC has been affiliated with industry officials, professionals and garage owners in helping with donations, Beatty said.
The cars that automotive students are learning on were donated and are stored behind the ATC adjacent to the Early Learning Center, she said.
She also said that funds are used to provide training to automotive students and a grant from the non-profit organization NATEF would certainly reflect the skills that students must gain for a successful career.
"Miss B is a great teacher," Sayvong said. "We get the real world experience and learn the ethics of a real car mechanic."
Sayvong plans on getting a job in a body shop after becoming certified, and while his love for imported Asian cars is his focus, he understands that he has to adjust to the fast and changing automotive industry, he said.
"We just finished a wheel bearings course," he said. "Now I have to take a hybrid class and learn the electrical phase for certain cars."
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