December 2, 2022

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GCC works to fill auto technician shortage | News

3 min read

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There’s a shortage of automotive technicians on island and Guam Community College is working to fill the void, as it educates students despite COVID-19 pandemic challenges.

“Right now, there is a need. I was just talking to one service manager in an advisory committee meeting and he was saying that they need technicians like now; they need them right away. So, there is a demand for it,” said Jonathan Perez, GCC automotive instructor.

When schools on island shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, switching to distance learning was a challenge especially for GCC’s automotive program, which saw a decline in the number of students.

“At the height of the pandemic, it was actually hard to get students. Our student enrollment for automotive actually dropped during the pandemic. We actually think we even lost some students during the pandemic because of the online classes. A lot of our students don’t like to do online class. They like that interaction, the hands-on learning so they did not want to come back to do online courses,” Perez said.

Now that students are back to in-person instruction, Perez encouraged automotive students to start their engines and get back on the road to an automotive degree.

Perez recalled his days as a GCC automotive student in the 1990s and said the program has evolved.

“It’s something totally different. It’s a lot more advanced than it used to be when I was going to school here,” he said, indicating the technological advances in tools and software.

He said the two-year automotive program and its corresponding curriculum is comparable to education received in the states.

“I think the only difference right now would be resources. … The only difference is the types of training equipment that they have, and some of the ties that they have to industry,” he said. “For example, in the states, some of the the schools there will have ties to certain manufacturers, where the manufacturer will actually donate training equipment to them.”

The GCC automotive program is the only one on island, it caters to both college students and high school students. The high school automotive program helps to matriculate some students into the two-year program.

Students in the high school program get a certificate of mastery after three years in the program, while maintaining an 80% or better and completing 180 hours of work experience

On average he said, one to two high school automotive students will go on to a post-secondary education at GCC and national certification.The program covers basic safety and eight other areas in the field.

“We have steering and suspension, brakes, engine performance, electrical, auto transmission, manual transmission, engine repair and HVAC, which is heating ventilation and air conditioning,” he said.

By the time a student completes the program he or she will be ready to take their certification test with the Automotive Service Excellence organization.

Pete Roberto, associate dean of School of Trades and Professional Services said registration for fall 2022, is ongoing and financial aid is available for qualifying students.

The college has been maintaining its tuition at $130 per credit hour.

“We do have financial aid available. We are known for the scholarships that we offer to the students,” Roberto said.

He said that the automotive program is continuing to expand. Right now, the school is considering expanding its curriculum to include electric, hybrid vehicles.

“So that’s something to look out in the next, five to 10 years, where we expand in that arena. We’ve piloted a diesel mechanic boot camp and then there’s work collaborating with the workforce development program in offering a boot camp,” Roberto said.

Boot camps help fast-track students toward employment as the program partners with employers.

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