High-tech automotive education at IE technical school


If you take your Audi in for service at Penske in West Covina, you might be greeted by David Sickler.

To watch him at work is to see a real pro. Checking cars in for repairs and keeping tabs on the ones the technicians are working on.

He's actually relatively new here, getting fast-tracked from his entry-level job after only a couple of months.

"The managers came to me and said, 'OK, we've got a position we'd like to offer you,' and it was the service consultant position," said Sickler.

What led him here? He recently graduated with honors from Universal Technical Institute in Rancho Cucamonga.

"We prepare them to go into a dealership of their choice where they get employed," said Sean Carlson, campus president, Universal Technical Institute.

It's like college for those interested in cars, and a solid career.

"Based on Labor Bureau statistics, there are going to be over 30-more-thousand jobs in the automotive industry in the next year," said Carlson. "And it continues every year until 2018."

The curriculum here is comprehensive, A to Z. But like any form of higher education, it isn't cheap.

"The basic automotive class is around 28,000," said Carlson.

Though like other places for higher education, help is available.

"We do Title IV funding as well as additional funding loans. And we also have a UTI foundation, and we also do scholarships within our organization as well," said Carlson.

UTI's been around since 1965. And back then, a wrench was the only kind of tool a mechanic really had to know how to use. But these days, with cars getting more complicated, tools tend to be computers.

And it's not just generic training. Several major car companies work with the school to train people on their specific brands of cars.

We found some students working in the Mercedes-Benz program with pretty high ambitions.

"I'm hoping to become a Master Tech first at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and then after to become a GM for the Mercedes-Benz dealership," said Mandeep, a student. " I'm trying to work for that."

"I would like to get my own shop," said Elizabeth, another student.

The days of the so-called "grease monkey"? Those are long gone. Just ask any of these students, or a recent graduate.

"I saw an opportunity here and went for it, and I definitely see room for growth," said Penske's David Sickler.

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