By Della Elliott
Last week’s commencement of the first Ford ASSET graduates at Cuyamaca College since 2013 was a double cause for celebration. The 16 students were the first to graduate since the program was brought back from a two-year hiatus and a new class is set to begin in the fall with online innovations designed to draw students from beyond San Diego County.
Cuyamaca College’s automotive technology program, which enrolls an average of 300 students each semester, is highly regarded because of its industry-recognized certifications. In addition to strong support from Ford Motor Co. for the ASSET (Automotive Student Service Education Training) program, which provides vehicles, tools and a partnership with Cuyamaca College dating back to 1986, the automotive technology program also enjoys industry backing from General Motors for the GM ASEP (Automotive Service Educational Program).
Unlike most training programs, ASSET and ASEP students are employed in the industry at sponsoring Ford, Lincoln and GM auto dealerships while they’re learning the skills.
According to Ford Motor Co., 99 percent of ASSET graduates get hired at their sponsoring dealerships. By the time graduation rolls around, nearly all the trainees are already employed full-time.
When the fall semester starts Aug. 21, students in the traditional Ford ASSET program will continue a two-year regimen of alternating classroom instruction with on-the-job dealership training. However, thanks to a $55,000 investment in AV equipment for web conferencing, live-streamed and recorded lectures and curriculum changes to protect the program’s integrity, distance learning will also be offered, said instructor and coordinator Brad McCombs.
“This is really exciting for Cuyamaca College to be Ford ASSET’s first pilot program in distance learning in the country,” McCombs said.
The online students will spend their two years full-time at Ford dealerships in their area with daily training classes on the web. The online training covers areas including electronics, climate-control systems, brakes, steering and suspension, and hybrid vehicle components and operation.
All students must complete a record book showing completion of the training modules and proving their ability to perform specific tasks. The books, which also serve as resume portfolios, are audited and signed by dealership personnel and the college instructor.
All ASSET students are also required to complete general education courses, making the program one of the college’s most demanding, second only to engineering in the total number of units needed for an associate degree. The GE classes are also offered online and distance leaners will get their degrees from Cuyamaca College. Campus visits are needed for mid-term and final exams.
The college’s Ford ASSET program, the only one in the county and one of only three statewide, is recognized as one of the best training programs in the world, McCombs said.
Its two-year timetable is intensive with no summers off. But the payoff is immeasurable: an associate of science degree transferable to California state universities, Ford Motor Co. certifications, and a near-guaranteed job upon graduation.
All but one of the 16 students in this year’s graduating class have full-time jobs as entry-level dealership technicians making between $21 and $35 an hour, McCombs said. The odd student out has a job waiting once a driver’s license hold is cleared by the DMV, he added.
Ford representatives at the commencement ceremony said that with the increasing complexity of today’s vehicles, the students can bet their education is far from over.
“‘Learning for the Future’ is your college’s motto and it is perfectly 100 percent aligned with the Ford ASSET program,” said keynote speaker Roger Henry, the parts and service director for Ford’s Southern California region. “New technologies are emerging constantly with the hybrids and the development of autonomous vehicles. The world is changing rapidly. Your education is not complete. Your education and learning is just starting.”
Classes such as the Ford ASSET and GM ASEP programs are critical to the industry as the primary source of trained technicians, industry representatives say. Because of the technology of new vehicles, a growing number of employers require workers to have postsecondary training, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which describes the job outlook as “very good” for automotive technicians.
The graduates took their turns addressing the nearly capacity audience inside the college’s Performing Arts Theater, speaking confidently of their abilities nurtured with patience and caring by their instructor.
Ignacio Castaneda-Garcia, class vice president, spoke glowingly of the close-knit relationship students have developed over the years and McComb’s devotion to students.
“There are a lot of good teachers here, but Brad doesn’t just care if you show up to class, he cares that you learn,” he said. “He is someone who is willing to take the time to help us grow.”
For an application and more information about enrolling in the Ford ASSET program, go to cuyamaca.edu/people/brad-mccombs/
Registration is underway for classes at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges for the fall semester beginning Aug. 21. Information on admissions and registering for classes is available at gcccd.edu/now
—Della Elliott is marketing and communications director for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.