New Technology starts its engine

This 1940 Chevrolet is currently in the Daly City Auto Repair shop, getting its head
gaskets replaced and blower repaired.

Haley Holmes/ The Skyline View

This 1940 Chevrolet is currently in the Daly City Auto Repair shop, getting its head gaskets replaced and blower repaired.

The Automotive Technology program has been a part of Skyline’s long list of offerings since 1977, and this summer, the program is up for re-accreditation. Along with re-accreditation comes new advances and changes in the automotive industry. Students, and Skyline itself, will have to adapt to in order to keep up.

How auto programs work.

Accreditation for such a strong program is the key to success for individuals coming into Skyline, as well as those leaving and moving on to greater opportunities.

An accredited automotive program ensures the quality of Skyline’s highlighted area of study. In order for students to succeed, the program needs the best resources and the highest quality of service. Accreditation gives students comfort in knowing that they will benefit from a program of good reputation, especially if they are paying for it. Not only does accreditation help validate student improvement and learning, it also allows students to transfer their credits if they wish to move on to a higher education system.

“The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accreditation process,” program coordinator Thomas Broxholm says, “is more rigorous than the standard community college accreditors because it’s specific to auto tech. We far exceed what any standard accreditation would need when we meet NATEF’s standard.”

Broxholm received his training at a Chrysler affiliated trade school and has seen changes in the auto industry ever since. The curriculum he had when he attended Skyline is nothing like it is today. Students today work on far more hybrid cars than they did before.

New Technology impacting auto education

With advancements in technology, the industry has discovered modern methods to “go green.” One of the efforts involves producing more energy efficient cars.

Hybrid and electric cars have gained popularity, as they have lower fuel costs and are better for the environment. The hybrid has better gas mileage and less carbon monoxide emissions. Though they may not be the cheapest cars in comparison to their gas-powered counterparts, consumers continue splurge.

One specific car a student may see, especially around the Bay Area, is the Prius, a car produced by Toyota. Toyota has sold about seven million hybrid cars since 1997, and the number is climbing. Hybrid cars are very similar to gas-powered cars, but the main difference between the two is hybrids use two power systems, while gas cars only contain internal combustion engines.

With a refined industry and eco-friendly buyers willing to switch to hybrid cars, those going into the automotive technology industry must take different approaches when repairing cars and performing maintenance checks.

For students with a passion for cars and no patience for sitting around, monotonous tasks will never be a problem. The auto industry is ever-changing, always providing new challenges. And this means that workers must be willing to learn new skills every day in order to perform well.

The Down side of the Auto Industry

As the world does, people and technology advance and new ideas develop.

Now, cars have voice mapping mechanisms, battery powered engines, WiFi and many other features that have never been seen before. Auto companies are trying to come up with different products to sell, resulting in an increase in competition between brands, as well as raising debates over which dealers are better and which cars are more efficient.

“The auto industry is seeing a rise in competition. There are different companies developing electric cars and they’re more efficient. It’s hard to keep up with the gas prices now, so a lot of people are actually buying Teslas and other electric cars,” auto tech student Joshua Escueta says. “Electric cars are pretty expensive but people are willing to make the switch.”

Tesla’s rise is a prime example of automotive competition. Tesla has released a series of electric cars that are far more advanced than gas-powered and current hybrid cars.

Unfortunately, for maintenance, owners must bring their cars directly to the Tesla dealerships. Mechanic shops, as of right now, are unable to work on strictly electric cars, but there is room for potential growth in the industry in the future.

According to the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation website, “Working on today’s cars requires a deeper understanding of the technology that goes into the modern, more sophisticated automobile.”

While a deep understanding of cars is required, knowledge of the technology used isn’t always learned from school. In many situations, mechanics do not go back to school in order to keep up with the evergreen industry.

“As a worker, you learn as you go and adapt to the advances in technology,” Honda mechanic Michael Milleza says. “You don’t need a higher degree to excel in the automotive field. It’s a good thing to have, but if you are fast, accurate, and dedicated then you will get far.”

To those worried that automotive technology won’t lead to a good career, Broxholm assures the work done will be well worth it. “You won’t get super rich,” he says, “but you can make a good living.”

In 2011, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that automotive technicians earned an annual salary of about $38,560, making the hourly wage $18.54. Of course, these numbers are continuously growing and that is only an average.

“I want them to be successful in life,” Broxholm says. “To be able to come out of here with an understanding of mechanical things and with confidence and the ability to form conclusions. To think.”

Like many other jobs, the pay rates in the automotive industry vary with skill. In just one generation, automotive service has advanced rapidly. There is a very high demand for auto technicians and trained professionals, and these workers cannot be outsourced. The industry, although old, is not dying out any time soon.

“To some, the idea of enrolling in an auto tech program is only considered as a hobby because they can’t pass other academic courses,” auto tech student Elexis Fontanilla says. “But to me it’s just as challenging as a history class or a math class, and that’s what makes it great.”

The emphasis on going to college is powerful in the current generation. Students strive to make it out of high school and move on to four-year universities with ambitions of becoming doctors, lawyers, writers and teachers. A select few, though, choose to take part in Skyline’s auto program. And those that do benefit greatly from the rigorous courses and beneficial lessons from skilled teachers.

“The [auto tech] program is a leader in automotive training, not only in the State of California, but across the county and other places in the world,” Richard Escalambre, the previous automotive technology program coordinator, says. “We all want to see the program continue this long-standing reputation.”