BMW programs fast-track students to dealerships to fill critical need as auto technology improves

Dave Kunz Image
Monday, February 13, 2023
BMW programs fast-track students to dealerships to fill critical need
Working on new cars gets harder as technology improves. Some BMW programs are fast-tracking tech students to fill a critical need at dealerships.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The 7-Series has long been BMW's flagship sedan, and a hallmark of new technology over the years. The complete redesign for 2023 includes the i7, a fully-electric version. It's brimming with tech inside and out like never before.

So, who's going to be able to service and repair something like this in the years ahead?

Students enrolled in the specialized BMW Fast Track program at Universal Technical Institute in Long Beach will literally be on a fast track to full-time jobs.

"We want these guys to get in, get out, and into a dealer as fast as possible," said Gary Uyematsu with BMW North America.

You could think of this as graduate school for aspiring auto techs who've already completed the trade school's basic 12-month course. And employment is almost guaranteed.

"The need for auto technicians is there. You can see it when you try to get your car fixed. The wait time, the turnaround time, it's much longer than it was pre-COVID. So we can't pump out technicians fast enough," said Anthony Pham, campus president of UTI Long Beach.

The training lab looks like a cross between a classroom and a dealership service department. Students are given assignments of problem-solving as if they were already dealer techs, with an assortment of newer BMWs at the ready, as well as the diagnostic tools.

Like many advanced trade schools, and higher education in general, this training doesn't come cheap -- upwards of $40,000 to attend UTI's basic course, but that's before grants or scholarships. The school notes that most of the students get at least part of their tuition covered by grants.

The BMW Fast Track program adds another $7,000, but recruitment needs at the dealer level can assist there. Many students who go on to fill positions get their course fee reimbursed by their new employers in their first few years after being hired.

This program gets students out at dealerships as quickly as possible after graduation. UTI and BMW have also teamed up on a program for active-duty military members. They can train, on-base, so they'll have a job when their military service is finished.

The MSTEP program is taught at military facilities like Camp Pendleton.

Marco Justiniano is a recent graduate. He quickly landed a job at BMW of Murrieta right after his time in the Marines Corps. From aviation tech serving his country, to dealership tech serving customers. And applying his military skill sets to the job.

"Here you have to be very efficient to be able to get these cars done within a certain amount of time for the customers to go back to their daily lives. So I think that was one of the biggest things that's transferable from Marine Corps traits to here," said Justiniano while in his work station at the dealership.

BMW and its dealers agree that skilled veterans can make for ideal hires.

"The critical thinking. Discipline. Being on time. You know, just being a 'good employee.' The military ingrains that in them," noted Gary Uyematsu of BMW.