Monday, August 10, 2015

Auto tech at Cuyamaca College back in gear with Ford ASSET

Ford ASSET, the only automotive technology training program of its kind in the county, is revved up to start anew at Cuyamaca College for the fall semester, and there is still time to enroll.

The Aug. 17 start of the fall semester marks the program’s return at the Rancho San Diego college after a recession-driven downturn and the retirement of the veteran instructor who started the program at the college in 1988 put the program in hiatus in 2013.

One of only three in the state, the college’s Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Education Training) is recognized as one of the best training programs in the world, said its new instructor and coordinator, Brad McCombs

Cuyamaca College’s automotive technology program, which enrolls an average of 300 students each semester, is highly regarded, drawing students countywide and beyond because of its industry-recognized certifications. It also receives strong support from General Motors and Ford Motor Co., which provide vehicles, tools and educational partnerships through Ford ASSET and GM ASEP (Automotive Service Educational Program). 

Unlike most training programs in which students gain skills before employment, ASSET and ASEP students are employed in the industry while they’re learning the skills. Ford, Lincoln, and GM auto dealerships sponsor the trainees, who alternate between on-campus instruction and paid work experience at the dealerships.

The campus instruction for ASSET students consists of accelerated eight-week semesters, with classes meeting from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Depending on the class size and sponsorship availability, openings are available in the program at the end of each session.

The two-year program, which consists of 44 hours of instruction and 60 weeks of  dealership training, demands a breadth of training and knowledge in not only automotive-related subjects but also academic subjects such as technical mathematics, applied physics, history, English and social studies.  The payoff?  An associate of science degree transferable to California state universities, Ford Motor Co. certifications, and a near-guaranteed job upon graduation.  

According to Ford Motor Co., 99 percent of ASSET graduates get hired at Ford or Lincoln  dealerships. By the time graduation rolls around, nearly all the trainees are already employed at the dealerships.

"This is one of our premiere programs,” said Wei Zhou, interim president of Cuyamaca College. “It is a great partnership with the community and our automotive dealerships.”

The students earn between $8-$10 an hour while undergoing the training, but typically make between $35,000 and $50,000 upon completion of the program. According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, many master technicians earn from $70,000 to $100,000 annually because of commissions.

With fewer Ford dealerships in the region than during pre-recession times, the competition for a paid sponsorship is stiffer these days, but McCombs is working to change the program to expand its scope and availability. He is currently in discussions with Ford representatives to open up the program to unpaid internships and those interested in jobs as service writers and fleet managers – positions that don’t involve the hands-on work of technicians but still require detailed knowledge of vehicles.

Classes such as the Ford ASSET and GM ASEP programs are critical to the industry as the primary source of trained technicians, industry representatives say. Because of the complexity of new vehicles, a growing number of employers require workers to have postsecondary training, according to the labor department, which describes the job outlook as “very good” for automotive technicians.  

“The work-experience component of this program is the most important part,” McCombs said. “If you have a relationship with a dealership, your likelihood of employment is really high.”

Because the sponsorships are so critical to the success of the students and program, McCombs is personally involved in the dealership placements. He arranges for interviews and  accompanies students starting the program for an initial meeting with a potential sponsor.

“We help students get jobs – it’s what we do at Cuyamaca College,” he said. 

More information about enrolling in the Ford ASSET program is available at

Registration is underway for classes at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges for the fall semester beginning Aug.  17. Registration information, along with a class schedule, is available online for Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.

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