“That makes a difference with a lot of the students because they know we have experience and can relate to them,” Erny said.
The transition to the institute’s current format was a three-year process that involved gaining advice from companies in the industry, rewriting the curriculum and updating tools and equipment. The institute is Snap-On certified and accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation.
Erny is proud of the program’s practical approach to auto work, and he plans to continue working with companies in the industry to keep the curriculum relevant.
“I think we’re going to have pretty stable growth. We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback from students and good feedback from employers as they’re starting to see (graduates),” he said. “It’s trying to bring academics and industry back into alignment.”
Mark Watkins, employed in the service department at Eriks Chevrolet in Kokomo, sat on the advisory board that guided Ivy Tech as it established the automotive institute. Eriks Chevrolet since has hired three graduates of the program.
“We look at their curriculum and what they’re teaching the students to make suggestions based on what we see in the field,” Watkins said. “The biggest problem is keeping up with technology because it changes so quickly. … It’s a big challenge for them because (they’re working) with all the car lines.”
With car manufacturers making advancements and adding new features to vehicles, auto technicians often spend time researching how to repair or replace the new parts, Watkins said. A strong understanding of basic mechanics, vehicles and equipment is critical for skilled workers, he added.
“The fact I know the program (at Ivy Tech) and what they teach, in talking to (graduates) you can tell they have that basic knowledge and are in a position where they could advance,” Watkins said. “Even after they enter our businesses, they’re still learning, but that basic knowledge is important.”