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Automotive Students Earn Their Way Through School

Being involved in the Clark College automotive programs is no easy task. The programs require discipline, teamwork and endurance.

Students work with automotive professionals at Dick Hannah dealerships and come out with the Automotive Service Excellence certifications. Students may become permanent employees of Dick Hannah, but the certifications are recognized everywhere.

Godson, a professor at Clark, received a certificate automatic transmissions from the school in 1978 and is also an Automotive Service Excellence Master.

“What we do, is put you in the job; we don’t train you and then say go out and try to apply for a position. We connect you to a business, that you can work for,” said Mike Godson when talking about Clark’s automotive programs.

These programs are the Dick Hannah Initiative for Technician with Clark College (HiTECC), Honda Professional Automotive Career Training (PACT)  and Toyota Technician and Education Network (T-TEN).

The automotive programs are a full-time job, with up to 40 hours a week. The programs are set in term brackets, with students going to Clark full time one term, then working at Dick Hannah, Honda or Toyota the next. This process continues for two years.

During this time, students take classes that show them how to fix almost everything on a car, emphasis will be focused on Toyotas and Hondas.

Godson talked about how the classes require lots of studying and dedication, “It can be very draining for a student.” 

“It’s difficult, if not impossible to work while you are doing it,” he said.

To get into the programs, students must first go through an interview process and be able to work at a dealership. “One thing that catches most students is the driving record. They must have a clean one,” Godson said.

To show their progress at dealerships, students will have a mentor who guides them and keeps in contact with their program instructor. At the end of each term, students will take an Automotive Service Excellence test. Tonia Haney, the T-TEN instructor, said that tests can be taken as many times as you want but will cost about $70. When each test is passed, that test cost will be refunded by the program.

A suspended car being worked on.

Haney said students must pass at least three ASE Certification tests. “This requirement is not difficult because we teach everything and make sure you know it. On average, students will graduate with five or more,” Haney said. To become a Master Certified Technician,  students must pass all eight tests.

Haney serves as the automotive faculty lead to the outcomes assessment program and the National Automotive Technical Educational Foundation (NATEF) certification requirements.

Dannie Nordsiden, the Clark College internship manager said, “Students who graduate will not have a very hard time finding a job.” Once they have years of experience, things are much easier and if they are a certified Master Technician they can almost demand their price.  

A downside to the programs, Nordsiden said is that students might need some financial support when they are not working, whether from parents or side jobs on the weekends. Another way to save money is that some dealers will lend you the tools, worth $4,500 and if you stay there for five years they will let you keep them.

Nordsiden described the working quarters as a managed internship. A big benefit where a person is assigned to a student who can help the student with employer relations or if something happens. Nordsiden said he talked to some students who found the managed internship very helpful with working at the dealerships.

Being in the automotive programs that gives hands-on experience is an advantage to students. Not all schools give their students the same opportunities Godson said.  At Clark, students are given the job first then shown how to do it with first-hand training.

Correction: The story misquoted Nordsiden saying, “Students who graduate will not have a very hard time finding a job.” The quote should have read, “Students who graduate will not have a very hard time finding a job.” The Indy regrets the error.

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