It’s true that auto shop work these days requires familiarity with computers, but today’s automotive technicians and mechanics still rely heavily on wrenches, pliers, socket adapters and other old-fashioned tools to get their work done. As much as things change, they also stay the same.
“Our Electude online simulation program is popular and effective with our students because it’s a familiar, game-based learning format,” said PTC Automotive Technology Program Director Gerald Sartin. “But easily 75% of our students are still using hand tools, and that component remains important.”
Sartin explained that lay people often believe that technicians these days working to repair their cars have only to hook their vehicle up to some computer, and it will tell them what is wrong or even do the repair. It doesn’t work that way.
“The computer tells us only what the computer sees, but it doesn’t indicate what is wrong,” he said. “Technicians still have to go in and diagnose the problem.”
They must use their knowledge and experience to think analytically and come to logical conclusions. They have to interpret the information at hand and devise a repair that usually includes use of, you guessed it, hand tools.
Even Electude, a computer simulation software, was fashioned in such a way as to incorporate as many real-world elements as possible. “With Electude, especially during COVID with hybrid classes, we wanted to find better ways to record tasks that are completed online,” Sartin said. “The online document was designed in a Work Order format just like what technicians would see in a shop or at a dealership.”
Electude has enabled the Automotive Technology Program to go virtually paperless insofar as textbooks are concerned, which saved students significant costs. However, they still have to purchase their tools, and hands-on lab time in the shop is indispensable.
“When I came here six years ago and students had to pay for their textbooks, it came to about $400,” Sartin said. “And the textbooks needed to be updated often, because automotive technology changes often.”
As technologies change, so do lifestyles. One thing that is unique about PTC’s program is that the entire curriculum is available for students who wish to attend classes at night. And because of the program’s compact structure, they can earn their degree faster than at other colleges in the region.
“We require fewer credit hours for the same degree,” Sartin said. “They are not being shortcut in any way. We consolidate all of the same content into the credits we require. Students will have to go to school longer elsewhere for the same degree. … And I don’t know of any other college close to us that has a full degree program at night.” For working people eager to quickly ramp up their careers, that convenience is hard to beat.
To learn more about PTC’s Automotive Technology Program, go to www.ptc.edu/automotive.
Submitted by Kristine Hartvigsen