We may be driving less during COVID-19 social distancing, but it is still important to keep our vehicles in top condition. Thanks to Choose Ohio First (COF) and Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®), Ohioans can count on service from expert technicians, trained to meet high General Motors and Ford standards. Despite the pandemic, another cohort of technicians are on the job after earning their credential through Tri-C this spring.
The Tri-C Automotive Technology “learn and earn” program certifies students through the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (GM ASEP) or the Ford Motor Company Automotive Student Service Education Training (ASSET). An accelerated five-semester schedule graduates credentialed, experienced technicians. During paid apprenticeships at local dealerships, mentors coach students to apply skills learned in classroom sessions. Dealership placements usually result in permanent employment.
This spring, 18 Choose Ohio First recipients graduated from Tri-C. Fifteen of them, including Kyle Martin, were from the Ford or General Motors program, and 100 percent of them are employed today.
“Tri-C was a great opportunity for me. The program matches my abilities, with great employment potential. Plus, I enjoy cars and recreational vehicles as a hobby, so I couldn't ask for a better career option,” Martin said. “Thanks to Choose Ohio First, I did not have to worry about how to pay for my education.”
In the fall, the Parma Heights resident will pursue a four-year engineering technology degree at Cleveland State University while working at a Ford dealership. The COF scholarship that covered his Tri-C tuition will continue to cover Cleveland State tuition.
Martin’s class adapted to the sudden move to online learning in March during the coronavirus pandemic. While auto dealers stayed open to provide essential services, classrooms at Tri-C closed.
“We jumped into action and contacted the dealerships,” said Kathleen Y. McCarthy, program director for Automotive Technology at Tri-C. “The dealership mentors adapted the hands-on work so training in the field ensured there were no learning gaps.”
“My mentor made our work feel ‘normal,’ and that was reassuring during this atmosphere,” Martin said. The flexibility of completing assignments online allowed Martin and some other students to pick up more work hours at times when they would normally be in class.
The online coursework delivers the same high standards GM and Ford count on from Tri-C and its students. Faculty worked closely with manufacturers to maintain program integrity in the transition. Students without home computers could receive one at no charge through the Tri-C Foundation, and the college boosted student supports.
“We’re doing everything we can to help students adjust,” McCarthy said. “Tutoring, coaching, and technical support are all available to prevent barriers to their success.”
Although only one student was briefly furloughed, the entire cohort graduated on time.
“We know that 85 percent of Tri-C graduates stay in Ohio,” McCarthy said. “This program attracts people who want to stay. An automotive credential will guarantee employment, with competitive pay. The COF scholarship helps students to start saving while they work, so it’s common for our graduates to buy their first home within 18 months after graduation. The training program and COF scholarships pay great economic dividends back to Ohio, Ford, GM – and the people who choose to live here.”