VVC’s newest automotive program offers hands-on learning and paid internships

VVC automotive students work on a Switch Lab vehicle kit, which allows them to build fully-functional electric cars from start to finish, during a lab class in Nov. 2019. Photo by Fabian Guillen.

Those interested in hands-on learning experiences designed to prepare them for a sustainable career are highly encouraged to check out automotive technology classes at Victor Valley College.

The student success rate of VVC’s automotive programs are at an all-time high, according to Automotive Department Chair Harry “Lee” Bennett Jr. The vast majority of students who complete the programs are performing at a professional level with highly marketable skills that enable them to become quickly employed, Bennett said.

The VVC Automotive Department now offers 12 different certificate programs for students to choose from and stack together, including those in alternative propulsion, brake and suspension, heating and air conditioning, and electrical.

All of these programs enable students who complete them to perform automotive repairs at a professional level with compliance to all vehicle safety and environmental regulations.

The newest addition is the Automotive Dealership Technician Program, a two-year program for which applications recently opened. Made possible through a recent grant award from the National Science Foundation, along with industry partnerships with local automotive dealerships and collaboration with local high schools, this program will create life-changing opportunities for students,” Bennett said.

dealership flyer

“They will go through the entire two years together, have all the dedicated support and counseling they need, will be provided with a first-rate toolbox, and at the end of the two years, they’ll have earned an associate degree as well as a multitude of professional-level certificates,” Bennett said.

As another bonus, students who complete the program will enter a two-year paid internship at a local dealership. VVC is currently partnering with Victorville Motors and Greiner Buick GMC, who both contributed donations to provide the students of the program with professional-level toolboxes.

The first step to entering any of the college’s automotive programs is to take Automotive 50 “Introduction to Automotive Technology” (4.0 units) and Automotive 77.3 “Automotive Workplace Professionalism (2.0 units). Students who complete both of these courses in the Spring 2021 semester are eligible to apply for the first cohort of the Dealership Technician Program upon completing them.

Auto 50 is the “gateway” to all of the expanding department’s certificates, according to automotive instructor Steve Coultas. This introductory course teaches students the basics of an automobile and lays a foundation for all other classes moving forward, he explained.

Nathan Tonning, a 27-year-old student at VVC, took Auto 50 during the Winter 2020 semester and said that despite having “almost no knowledge of automotive systems at all” going in, he had “a really great experience overall.”

“The instructors really did a good job of explaining all of the different components of the vehicle, what kind of equipment to use, how to use it properly…,” Tonning said. “…Steve Coultas is great because he’s been in the industry for so long, he’s very knowledgeable, he’s always learning new things and does a really great job at transferring that passion he has for it to the students.”

Tonning, who will graduate from VVC with an associate degree in welding at the end of the Spring 2021 semester, enrolled in automotive classes chiefly to boost his ability to work on cars at home.

“ I did want to know how to work on my own vehicles — the family cars — I figured that would be useful, so that’s the main reason I went into automotive,” Tonning said.

Coultas and Bennett encourage students of all backgrounds to consider enrolling in Auto 50 if they’re at all interested in learning about vehicles, whether that be to prepare for a career in the ever-expanding automotive industry or simply to learn a little bit about how cars function so you can do some of your own maintenance.

high school competition
A high school students participating in the 2019 Victor Valley College High School Automotive Technician Competition at VVC. Photo by Fabian Guillen.

In addition, students should enroll in Auto 77.3 if they want to sharpen their skills to be highly marketable to employers, the instructors said.

“Automotive Workplace Professionalism was born from regional advisories. Employers told us what they’re not seeing and what they’d like to see,” Bennett said. “So we made a class dedicated to these ‘soft skills’ — work ethic, professionalism, being on time, dressing appropriately, and so on. Now it’s an inescapable component of our program, and it’s been a really good thing.”

“When somebody who is well equipped mechanically also has good professional skills and is responsible, who’s not going to want to hire that person?” Coultas said.

The automotive programs have seen many graduates go on to find good-paying jobs and success in their chosen industry fields, Coultas said. One such example is Cameron Hill, 23, who has been working as a smog and diagnostics technician at A-Action Automotive in Hesperia for about eight months.

Hill said he never wanted to go to school until he found his passion in automotive classes at VVC.

“I was going to classes five days a week, smile on my face the whole time,” Hill said. “This industry is always going to be growing, and it makes it fun because there’s so much going on.”

He noted that Coultas and all of the auto instructors are “always happy to help,” throughout the courses and even after students graduate.

There are multiple sections of both Auto 50 and 77.3 available for those interested to enroll in for Spring 2021. Students who complete these prerequisites in the Spring semester will be eligible to apply for the Automotive Dealership Technician Program, which begins in Fall 2021.

auto 50 and 77.3

More information on VVC’s automotive program can be found online at www.vvc.edu/academic/automotive. Those interested in applying for the Dealership Technician Program may find the application on the left hand side menu of this webpage.

Any questions about the various Automotive Department programs at Victor Valley College can be directed to Lee Bennett at harry.bennettjr@vvc.edu or Steve Coultas at steven.coultas@vvc.edu

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