In a recent press release, Ford tells us that it is expanding a training program for community colleges in two exciting ways. First, it’s going to include three new community colleges so that more students can get the skills to work on today’s vehicles. Perhaps more importantly (especially for our readers), Ford is expanding the program to include battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
Ford’s program, called Automotive Student Service Educational Training (or ASSET), has been around since 1985, and more than 12,000 students have been through the program at various community colleges around the United States. Not only are Ford and Lincoln involved in helping community colleges offer better training for the next generation of mechanics, but they also partner with local dealers to make sure there’s someplace for young adults to get hands-on experience and network with people already working in the industry.
“My experience with ASSET been great,” says Josh Lilley, an ASSET student at Five Star Ford in Dallas, Texas. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve been tinkering on my dad’s first-generation Bronco. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone pursuing an automotive career at the dealership. It’s such a great program, especially if you don’t know anything, they’ll sit you down and help you grow those skills. I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would need or know.”
This year, the program is going to go live at these three community colleges:
- Pima Community College, Tucson AZ
- Wake Technical College, Raleigh, NC
- Gwinnett Technical College, Lawrenceville, GA
When those programs start, they’ll not only do what ASSET has always done, but they’ll also be teaching students what it takes to safely do good work on electric vehicles. Courses will include:
- High Voltage Systems Safety
- Hybrid Vehicle Components and Operation
- Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Components and Operation
- High Voltage Battery Service
- Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Operation and Diagnosis
Ford isn’t just sending books, either. The company is going to also be sending 25 battery-electric (BEV) vehicles for students to use at dealers and community colleges to get hands-on experience with these systems.
“The ASSET program puts these kids in in the classroom and then in the stall applying it. To me getting those two at the same time is going to give a dealer better technician retention and the student a better understanding of the information,” says Josh Fichter, General Manager, Five Star Ford in North Richland Hills, Texas. Adds Fichter, “It also breeds loyalty because if you’re not proactively growing your own technicians right now, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
If a student goes through the whole two-year program, they walk away with a lot of training and experience. Not only do they have an associate’s degree at the end, but they also have the ability to get all of Ford’s Service Technician Specialty Training (STST) credentials, plus a year of hands-on work experience at a real dealer working on real cars. This means that not only do they have a good shot at working at that dealer, but can go to other Ford dealers or just about anywhere else with EVs in the shop to get a decent paycheck.
One other thing Ford’s adding to the program is a certification for mobile service technicians. This gives another pathway for people to work their way into the industry, and possibly on to finish the whole program if they decide to become a full technician.
Why I Think Programs Like This Matter
There’s an old Waylon Jennings song that sums up what most people think about their child’s education.
“Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks.
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.”
Everyone wants their boys to go make big bucks working in a high-prestige field, or have their sons go do something safe, like work in a cubicle from 9 to 5 five days a week. Many of us don’t want our kids taking on high adventure jobs like policing or fighting fires, and many of us don’t want our kids to “suffer” doing manual labor for a career.
But, as Andrew Yang points out, this approach isn’t working out so well for American boys. We’ve been pushing them toward college, and hard, but many of them just aren’t interested or burn out trying to do it. In fact, boys just aren’t finishing high school as much as the girls these days. This leaves them with a bad future:
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better when boys become adults. Men now make up only 40.5 percent of college students. Male community college enrollment declined by 14.7 percent in 2020 alone, compared with 6.8 percent for women. Median wages for men have declined since 1990 in real terms. Roughly one-third of men are either unemployed or out of the workforce. More U.S. men ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents than with romantic partners.”
He shares a lot of even worse things going on for men in the article, and I’d recommend checking it out, especially if you’re a parent. They’re not only missing out on careers, but also romantic partnership and families. This leads to despair, crime, and violence.
Programs like this one, while good for boys, girls, or any other identity that’s out there, are what many young men are looking for. Many of them like working with their hands, and want something challenging to take on. Plus, you’d have to be a complete fool if you think young guys don’t like cars. It’s a great mix that can provide not only fulfillment for many young guys, but also can give them a decent paycheck. With that decent paycheck, they can find a decent person to date and marry, and maybe have a family.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see my kids succeed as a mechanic working on electric cars and helping clean up the planet than burn out halfway through a 4-year degree they hate and end up living at home until they’re 35 and finally find something they love.
So, I think news like this is fantastic both for young people and our society as a whole. Ford deserves our full support here.
Featured image: Students learning to work on a Ford vehicle in an ASSET class. Image by Ford.
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