Mike Hedrick and Matt Summitt spent their final days of class this week at Ivy Tech Community College taking a math exam and repairing a vehicle’s cooling system.
The two men will graduate from Ivy Tech’s automotive institute this month, bringing the total number to complete the pilot program in Kokomo to seven. The institute was established in 2011 at Ivy Tech’s locations in Kokomo and Terre Haute, before expanding to a total of five sites across the state in 2012.
For Hedrick, from Marion, the automotive institute provided a chance to redirect his career. Hedrick spent 17 years as a truck driver and ran his own auto shop on the side. Eventually, health complications prevented him from getting behind the wheel, so he enrolled in Ivy Tech’s one-year, accelerated automotive institute to update his mechanical training.
“I did it because it was quick,” Hedrick said. “The instructors were good. I liked that a lot.”
Full-time students in the automotive institute attend classes for seven hours each weekday for 40 weeks. Graduates from the program walk away with at least 13 industry-recognized certifications that could land them a job in any mechanic-related position at new car dealers, independent repair shops, auto parts stores or other companies.
“It’s shorter; they get in and out quicker. It’s more hands-on,” said Mike Erny, chair of the automotive technology program. Erny helped start the auto institute. “This is a lot more geared toward industry. … It’s hard to do a lot of that in a traditional two-year degree program.”
Kokomo’s automotive institute currently enrolls two full-time sections and two-part time sections, with about 30 students set to graduate in July 2014. Students spend about 75 percent of their class time in the shop, working on vehicle alignment, repairing transmissions, brakes, suspension and diagnosing other issues with the vehicles. Erny and the program’s two other instructors all have at least 20 years of experience in the field.