EL CAJON - Thirteen students in the automotive technology program at Cuyamaca College will put their careers into high gear by graduating from the Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) program. The commencement marks the 14th anniversary of the two-year program at the campus and the graduation of the seventh class of ASSET students.
With one class graduating, program coordinator Pat Garity is busy recruiting students for the startup of another Aug. 26. As the only program of its kind in the county, it draws students from throughout the region and as far away as El Centro and Palm Springs.
Unlike most training programs in which students gain skills before employment, ASSET students are employed in the industry while they’re learning the skills. Currently, seven auto dealerships are sponsoring students, whose training alternates between on-campus instruction and on-the-job training at the dealerships.
By the time the students receive their associate degrees in automotive technology, they will have completed 22 weeks on campus and 30 weeks on the job.
While the program demands a breadth of training and knowledge in not only automotive-related subjects but also, academic subjects such as technical mathematics, applied physics, English and social studies, the payoff is a near-guaranteed job upon graduation.
According to Ford Motor Co., 99 percent of ASSET graduates get hired at Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealerships.
“This graduation is very special because the students have such a great affinity for what they’re doing and a strong allegiance to the Ford ASSET program,” said Dr. Geraldine Perri, college president. “The design of the program provides a broad-based education and superb training and also, there is the immediate success of having a good-paying job.”
The students earn between $6-$8 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 high schools these days including automotive training as part of their curriculum, classes such as the Ford ASSET program are all the more critical to the industry as the primary source of trained technicians, Garity said.
“We used to say that there are more computer components aboard today’s cars than aboard the first spacecraft, but now, it would be more accurate to say there are more computer parts in the typical car stereo than in the first spacecraft,” Garity said.
A new car has from 10 to 15 onboard computers and some of the more advanced vehicles have global positioning systems, Internet access and other high-tech features integrated into the function of the car.
Because of the complexity of new vehicles, a growing number of employers require workers to have high-school diplomas and postsecondary training, according to the labor department, which describes the job outlook as “very good” for automotive technicians.
While demand is growing for highly trained technicians, Garity said there are fewer high schools from which to recruit students to the Ford ASSET program than when he started the classes at Cuyamaca in 1986.
“It’s reflective of the demise of vocational education programs at high schools,” he said. “I don’t have the number of feeder programs that I used to.”
Since ASSET’s inception at Cuyamaca College, some 130 students have enrolled in the program and of these, 86 percent have received their associate of science degrees.
To enroll, call Garity at (619) 660-4267.
Cuyamaca’s automotive technology department also offers the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program, or GM-ASEP, another corporate-sponsored job training program.
Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in East County’s Rancho San Diego. For campus and driving maps, visit www.cuyamaca.net or call (619) 660-4000.