Arapahoe Community College (ACC), Littleton, CO, has been selected as the 2011 Tomorrow’s Technician School of the Year, brought to you by WIX Filters, Chicago Pneumatic and Waterloo Industries.
According to contest judges, ACC’s professional setting, emphasis on education and opportunities for students, proved to be the winning formula in selecting its automotive program as tops in the nation.
This is the fourth-consecutive year for the nationally recognized award in which an automotive program is crowned for its educational excellence. ACC now joins the ranks of past School of the Year winners Waubonsee Community College (WCC) in Sugar Grove, IL, Ohio Technical College (OTC) in Cleveland, OH, and Caddo Career & Technology Center in Shreveport, LA.
“We are very pleased to acknowledge the instructors, staff and administrators of Arapahoe Community College on their achievement of providing top-notch automotive-related education to its students,” said Jeff Stankard, publisher of Tomorrow’s Technician.
To recognize their commitment to the industry, WIX Filters presented ACC’s auto program with a $5,000 contribution, as well as wearables, backpacks and other gifts for each of the automotive program’s nearly 90 students. Chicago Pneumatic, a manufacturer and distributor of aftermarket tools, accessories and compressors, provided the winning school with more than $8,000 worth of tools including various impact wrenches, orbital sanders, pistol screwdrivers, ratchet sets and more. Waterloo Industries donated a Traxx brand rolling tool cabinet/chest.
“WIX places a heavy emphasis on technician education and we are proud to support this program which recognizes the best schools in the country,” said Mike Harvey, brand manager for WIX Filters. “The better education students receive today, the more valuable they will be as a resource to their customers in the future; it’s very encouraging to see so many schools, teachers and students share in this belief.”
(For more on the prizes awarded to ACC and the three finalist schools, visit www.tomorrowstechnician.com.)
Stankard explained what makes this even more rewarding for the ACC staff and students is that the quality of the School of the Year entries continues to rise. “This year’s contest was the most competitive in terms of school profiles,” Stankard said. “We see that the level of automotive education programs in this country continues to improve every year. And, it is our goal that we, along with the contest’s generous sponsors, highlight the skills and knowledge that the next generation of automotive service technicians are taking with them into the field.”
While ACC had made it into the Top 20 in years past, newly added educational programs helped boost the school in its scoring totals and elevate it to the title of School of the Year.
“Our program has been involved in this competition for the past four years and we have continually attempted to improve our program each and every year,” said Jerry Viola, director of the automotive technology program.
ACC staff, in working with its industry advisory committee to develop “tomorrow’s technicians today,” reorganized the automotive program admission requirements and curriculum four years ago to reflect the needs of the local automotive industry.
“We collectively felt that the program needed be geared toward future professional technicians. To do that, the program had to incorporate general education with formal automotive training classes and active, hands-on labs with state-of-the-industry automobiles and tools,” Viola explained.
“We entered into a collaboration with several automotive manufacturers (GM, Chrysler, Nissan, and later Honda, Hyundai, and Kia) who have so graciously donated more than $1,000,000 worth of new cars for our students to disassemble and study,” Viola said.
“We have designed unique training opportunities for our students to understand, diagnose and repair the current technology and communication systems of a modern automobile. This, I feel, is a huge advantage to insure their success as journeyman line techs.”
Viola said the program strives to keep small class sizes, averaging 16 to 18 students per class. This gives a student-teacher ratio of about nine-to-one in the labs.
And, he credits his faculty as a reason for the program’s positive learning atmosphere.
“Our ASE Master Certified L1 faculty members all hold college degrees, have industry experience and are devoted to their work with students and provide a quality education,” he said. “I believe that enthusiastic instructors make motivated students.”
The school treats the students as professionally as if they were already in the industry. ACC’s auto program mandates that students pass automotive industry standard employment criteria as part of the program’s admission requirements— clean driving records, clean criminal backgrounds and a 10-panel drug screening.
All ACC automotive students work as paid apprentices during their two-year fieldwork training at local independent repair shops and dealerships.
“We’ve established an apprenticeship mandate as part of our formal training at the college,” Viola said. “As a result, our program actually grew in full-time enrollment because in-coming students realized that in two years, they would be able to graduate with a college degree (an Associate in Applied Science in Automotive Technology), have nearly two years of job experience and leave the school with minimal student loan debt.”
ACC’s automotive program has more than doubled its enrollment in the past four years, and has increased its graduation rate by 800 percent.
Additionally, 2011 marks the second consecutive year in which 100 percent of its program graduates were employed in the industry prior to graduation.
Another advantage the school offers is a financial aid program for automotive tools.
According to school officials, Viola negotiated with three major tool companies to assist underprivileged students acquire the necessary tools needed for work.
Because the apprenticeship program requires students to have their own tools, students are able to buy more than $13,000 worth of tools for about $5,700.
ACC on the Educational Radar
Tomorrow’s Technician wasn’t the only organization to recognize ACC’s quality automotive program.
The school also received national recognition for the apprenticeship program from the White House. In April 2010, educator Dr. Jill Biden, who as Second Lady works to highlight the importance of community colleges, visited ACC as part of her tour highlighting best practices in community college education programs.
During her visit, she complimented the college’s automotive program for its innovative approach, commitment to general education, and putting students to work in a high-demand, high-paying career within two years of graduation.
“We are very proud of this distinction, but are even more proud of winning the 2011 School of the Year award,” said Janna Oakes, Dean of Liberal Arts and Professional programs.
“Jerry Viola’s vision, his commitment to being the best, and his deep personal commitment to partnerships and relationships are the reasons that ACC’s automotive program is noted as the finest among college automotive programs.”
ACC is one of a select number of Department of Energy-Hybrid Training programs offered across the country.
The hybrid-training program is made possible by a federal grant to Colorado State University Ventures and ACC, along with other participants.
According to Viola, technicians are trained in servicing and conversion of vehicles into plug-in electric technology. Courses are taught in the evenings to allow technicians to train after work hours.
“The rapid pace at which technology is changing presents many challenges for technicians,” Viola said. “Critical thinking skills, along with the ability to read, comprehend and perform numerous mathematical calculations are the reasons we run a degree-seeking program.”
The school offers manufacturer-specific automotive programs as well, including:
• Honda PACT;
• GM ASEP;
• Nissan; and
• Chrysler CAP.
“Arapahoe Community College continually strives to meet community and industry needs in meaningful and innovative ways,” said ACC president Dr. Diana Doyle. “Our Automotive Technology program is a proud example of excellence in service.”
About the Contest
Babcox Media’s Tomorrow’s Technician magazine and sponsors WIX Filters, Chicago Pneumatic and Waterloo Industries developed the School of the Year contest to recognize the top automotive technical colleges and schools dedicated to innovative training programs that prepare students for real-world careers.
Entries for this year’s contest were received from 301 students, instructors and other industry representatives nominating nearly 100 high schools, technical schools and colleges, including the three regional finalists:
• Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Elizabethtown, KY;
• South Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA; and
• Sinclair Community College, Dayton, OH.
Tomorrow’s Technician magazine thanks the generosity of its sponsors for the annual school of the year contest.
This year’s prizes for the winning school included:
WIX Filters: A $5,000 contribution to the automotive program, as well as T-shirts, ball caps and backpacks for the nearly 90 students in this year’s classes.
CP7749 1/2” Impact Wrench
CP7740-2 1/2” Impact Wrench
RP9533RSR 3/8” Impact Wrench
CP7729 3/8” Impact Wrench
CP727 3/8” Impact Wrench
CP7111 Air Hammer
CP7200 Mini Random Orbital Sander
CP7215 6” Palm Sander
RP3611 6” Palm Sander
CP760 Orbital Sander
CP761 Orbital Sander
CP763 Orbital Sander
CP780 Pistol Screwdriver
CP781 Pistol Screwdriver
CP783 Straight Screwdriver
CP7823 3/8” Ratchet
CP826T 3/8” Ratchet
CP865 Vertical Polisher
CP869 Right Angle Polisher
S6008D 3/4” Deep Socket Set
CP7300R Mini Compact Drill
CP875K Mini Angle Die Grinder Kit
Waterloo Industries provided its Traxx brand
TRX5208 8-Drawer Tool Chest
TRX5211 11-Drawer Tool Cart