Auto Tech revs it up and turns up the volume

(Andrew Bennett)

Keith Cousins

In a corner of Saddleback College, unseen by most students, comes the sound of engines revving and the clanking of tools. The Automotive Technology program is a well-established program on campus that not only teaches students about their automobiles, but also prepares students for careers in this field.

Darrell Deeter, assistant professor of automotive technologies, gave the Lariat a tour of the facilities.

“We work on everything here, from air conditioning to whatever starts with z in the automotive world,” Deeter said.

There is a machine shop on site that teaches students how to build engines, as well as work on other components of cars. Some of the equipment is brand-new and according to Deeter, is “cutting edge.”

Deeter said that contrary to popular belief, the auto repair industry is not a bunch of stereotypical “grease monkeys” with black fingernails, but is in fact a very high-tech, high-knowledge profession.

“You have to like electronics if you are going to be in the auto industry,” Deeter said.

The program offers various certificates essential to getting a job in the field. There are four options available: Automotive Chassis Specialist, Automotive Engine Service Specialist, Automotive Engine Performance Specialist, and General Automotive Technician.

As far as the ages of students who enter the program, Deeter said they have a range, “people from ages 15 to 70 want to go to work in the industry.”

Deeter claimed that, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, there will be around 600,000 people needed to fill jobs as Automotive Technicians within the next 10 to 20 years.

Neil Anderson, 20, undecided, has been around automobiles all of his life through his grandfather, who builds engines.

“My original goal at Saddleback was to get my [general education], but then I walked in here and I wanted to play,” said Anderson. “It gives you a good idea of what the industry entails. This is a whole lot more work than working as a technician at an auto dealership.”

Currently the ratio of men to women enrolled in the automotive technology classes is around one to five. Deeter said women generally take the classes to learn how to become more informed consumers.

Department Chair of Automotive Technology Cliff Meyer said that they are trying to improve that ratio. “There are very few of our female students who move onto the advanced classes and we want to change that since there are great opportunities in this field,” Meyer said.

Deeter added to this by saying that with the certificate programs offered, students are able to get good jobs and make around $80,000 a year.

The program is as well-equipped as other tech schools, such as Universal Technical Institute and students can get the same education while paying a lot less for classes. There are also no contracts to sign like at the majority of other auto tech schools.

“At least take one or two classes and see if you like it,” Meyer said. “Come and see the real world and get your hands dirty and try it out – go for a test drive first.”

For students interested in maintaining their own cars better, or those interested in becoming employed in the industry, the automotive technology department at Saddleback can meet those needs.

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