BAILEY — Two representatives from the Universal Technical Institute held a demonstration Thursday for students in the automotive classes at Southern Nash High School.
The Universal Technical Institute is a trade school providing a career-specific technical education. Along with a PowerPoint presentation, students were able to see a dirt bike and high performance car and learn about the mechanics, technology and STEM concepts involved in automotive services.
“Technician jobs are in super-high demand, since there’s kind of a shortage of certified technicians right now,” said Chris Bitzenhofer, admissions representative of eastern North Carolina. “Maybe trade schools don’t seem as fancy as some of the big universities, but technicians are so, so important to our society and there’s a lot more STEM application that goes into technical work than people think.”
Eight programs are offered through the institute: automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians, as well as welding technology and computer numerical control machining programs. Within the programs, specialty brand focuses are available.
“Our biggest program specialty is Ford, by far,” Bitzenhofer said. “There are a ton of Ford dealerships in the country, and it’s a safe bet since they so often have job openings.”
Bitzenhofer said some of the benefits of attending the program are increased job opportunities, higher income opportunities, decreased student debt and the fact that the program is only a year, so attendees are not in school forever. The program costs $37,000 and includes tuition, textbooks, tools and uniforms. Housing is not provided, but financial aid is available if needed.
Justin Batts, 19, a senior at Southern Nash, said he is thinking about applying to the program.
“The presentation was really cool,” he said. “I like that their programs seem really hands-on and that it’s only three weeks. It seems pretty easy, which is good ’cause I don’t really like math.”
While the courses do not include general education classes, Mario Pennycooke, a marketing manager with the institute, emphasized that technicians do rely heavily on STEM skills.
“A lot of students, while they’re still in high school, aren’t always fans of studying STEM subjects,” Pennycooke said. “What we see happen is that we teach applied math, which means that they have an opportunity to see for themselves how it works and what the point is — and then they love learning about it once they know that.”
Brandon Perry, 18, another senior, said that while he currently has no plans to go into automotive work, he still was interested in the presentation.
“My dad’s a mechanic for the Department of Transportation, and so he’s always working on cars and it just sparked an interest for me,” Perry said. “I liked seeing the new technology and seeing how these skills can be helpful in other things I do.”
In the introductory Automotive 1 class, students hear about the variety of jobs available in mechanics and engineering, while Automotive 2, the advanced class, has a more-hands on approach. Students are given the opportunity to work on engines and cars using tools similar to those in professional automotive shops.
“We want to prepare them for jobs in the automotive industry,” said Michael Simonof, an automotive teacher. “This presentation shows them an easy path to do that, and reinforces how important STEM will be in almost any field they decide to go into.”