MUSCLE SHOALS — Advancements in technology are evident throughout education and industry, including the automotive industry.
“There are cars and trucks with basically a smartphone in the dash running the vehicle,” said Jay Forsythe, service manager at Ray Miller Buick in Florence.
Forsythe, who has worked in vehicle service since 1984, said technology advancements are changing the business.
“There are some cars that have as many as 15 computers in them, and up to three dozen sensors,” said Eric Creekmore, a Northwest-Shoals Community College Automotive Service Technology instructor.
But those technology advancements don’t mean vehicles don’t break down or need maintenance. Qualified service technicians are in more demand.
“Automotive service technicians have a bright outlook,” said Amanda Terry, coordinator for Career Services at Northwest-Shoals Community College. “We all have cars, and sooner or later they are all going to break down. And with the technology increasing with the vehicles, there has to be highly trained, certified technicians available.
“It is a highly-skilled profession,” Terry said, “and the demand is growing and will continue to grow.”
According to statistics, in 2016 the median wage for an automotive service technician was more than $38,000 annually.
Terry said national statistics project that through 2024, there will be more than 237,000 job openings in the automotive technology field.
“They’re not shade tree mechanics anymore,” said Creekmore. “The people who leave here with an associate’s degree are highly trained, highly qualified, and can go to work anywhere.”
Creekmore and instructor Danny Carson work with students who have no mechanical backgrounds to those who have been tinkering with cars all their lives.
“I’ve learned to change oil and put on an oil filter,” said Noah Wigton, who moved to Tuscumbia from Chicago and is in his first year at the Northwest-Shoals program. “This is totally new for me, but I’m enjoying it.”
Hunter Lytle, of Muscle Shoals, who was partnering with Wigton to work on an older truck, had never worked on a car.
“It’s something that will help me later in life if nothing else,” he said.
Creekmore said the students are learning the basics of automotive technology from changing a flat tire and fixing it to changing oil and fixing brakes to working on transmissions and engines. They also learn about the “high-tech” jobs, such as learning about wiring and how to use meters to read the computers in cars.
Brent Huntzinger, of Florence, has been in the program for two years. He started in the welding program, and now is working on a double major in welding and automotive technology.
“I’ve always like messing with cars,” Huntzinger said, “but things are more advanced now. Having the right equipment, tools and the instructions really makes it easier to learn.”
Huntzinger was working on torqueing bolts on a turbo that the class had installed on a Dodge truck.
“You can go online and find out exactly how much torque is needed on each bolt,” he said. “This is so advanced now and getting more advanced. That’s one thing about the class; we have classroom work, but we get to come into the shop and do hands-on, which really lets us learn how to do the work.”
Creekmore said members of his class range in age. He said some are right out of high school, looking for the class to help them get a job. Others are older students who are looking to use the class to open their own business.
“This is flagged as a bright outlook occupation,” Terry said. “Employers want and need skilled employees, so there is a demand for these jobs, and will continue to be a demand.”
“When they leave our program with an associate degree, they can go to work in any shop, or open their own. They will have a background that will help them deal with the advancements that technology has made in the automotive industry,” Creekmore said.
Source: Times Daily
Featured Image: Beauty Harmony Life
Inset Image: Matt McKean/Times Daily