WNC News & Notes: Accelerated learning sets students up for jobs
January 19, 2014
Western Nevada College automotive technology instructor Jason Spohr can't wait to see his students succeed. He knows that in today's fast-paced world, time is valuable and jobs are more readily available to the most qualified candidates.
So when he had the chance this fall-winter to offer an accelerated, hands-on program to prepare students for national automotive technology certifications, he was all in.
Spohr said he is well aware that many people struggle to find the time and money to learn or update job skills. WNC attained a federal TAACCCT grant that provides funds for work force training. The college trained 10 students in hands-on automotive technology in just 14 weeks. At the end, all 10 succeeded in earning 21 college credits.
In addition, the students were able to sit for the student version of the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) national certification exams, and earned an overall 89.4 percent passing rate. Now they can choose to take the professional versions of the tests to boost their job credentials. Both the student and professional versions of the certifications are perhaps the most important way employers can be assured of sound employee skills.
Instruction was hands-on in the college's automotive laboratory, as well as in the classroom, said Spohr, who is an ASE master certified technician and holds a master's degree in business administration.
Seven classes over the teaching term were tied to the ASE testing categories, Spohr said. Students worked on projects in suspension and steering, brakes, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, engine repair, automatic transmission and trans-axle manual drive train and axles, and maintenance and light repair.
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"The students performed hands-on car repairs, and they rebuilt an engine from parts in boxes."
Student Jack O'Connell said the program turned out to be just the right fit for him.
"I didn't think about college," he said, because he had a job he enjoyed as a sales representative for a snack food company. But when that company closed during the recession, he rethought his future.
"I had always wanted to be an auto mechanic," O'Connell said. He learned about the WNC training opportunity through JOIN (Job Opportunities in Nevada) and JobConnect, and his family was supportive of the move.
"At first I was a little nervous," O'Connell said. But, he said, "I'm a very determined person. I have to be." He said the accelerated time frame made it possible.
The college also provided a teaching assistant, Joseph Ouellette, who works with students in the hands-on shop environment, said Linda Devon, who helped to coordinate the program.
"The components that made the program work included the continuity of instruction with one teacher for all the classes, the fact that all the students moved through the program together, the way they learned from each other and helped each other, and having a TA available who could provide a "second opinion" on many things," she said.
Devon said Spohr "did an incredible job with the classes. He was patient, spent many additional hours with individuals who needed help, and offered everyday, helpful information in addition to what was in the textbook."
Spohr agreed that the class was a success. He said that in addition to students who took the course for job preparation, "If a student enrolled in the accelerated program only for ASE test preparation, it would still be well worth it."