New auto curriculum trains future mechanics

NORWALK, Calif. "I always wanted to be a mechanic. I started when I was like five years old, helping my dad outside doing brakes and things," said auto technology student Juan Prado.

He'll now have a great place for his formal training.

This new portion of /*Cerritos College*/ is the Automotive Partners Complex. It's no coincidence that it resembles a car dealership.

"We've always done a great job of training technicians, but we also wanted to train service advisors, financial consultants that work in the dealerships, operations people and even general managers," said Steve Richardson the executive director of the Cerritos College Foundation.

The college will still focus on schooling the technicians of tomorrow but with an enhanced curriculum.

The automotive training program at Cerritos College has been around since the 1950s. And while students still learn mechanical skills, they're increasingly having to learn about technology. And another new building under construction will train them in hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.

Budget cuts mean that scheduling the right classes can be tricky. Some students have to be patient to complete the program.

But the school is so well regarded that many start working in dealerships while they're still enrolled.

"I've disassembled a motor, oil changes, tire changes. The job title is technician assistant," said Frank Stipa an auto technology student who is already working in the field.

Parents, don't be disappointed if you son or daughter would like to work as an auto technician rather than in some other profession.

"When they become a master tech in four or five years, they can easily make six figures," said Richardson.

Thanks to this new facility, students may even move up to running an entire operation.

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