Pennsylvania College of Technology recently became the newest partner in American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s Professional Automotive Career Training program, designed to provide experienced, certified and loyal automotive-service technicians for Honda/Acura dealerships in major U.S. markets. Penn College invited students and dealer representatives to a ceremonial kickoff event that included timely talk about alternative-fuel vehicles and affirmation of the college’s pivotal role in supplying the industry with qualified service personnel.
That need is especially pressing as those of the “baby boom” generation begin to retire en masse, remarked John G. Petas, Honda senior vice president of parts and service operations in Torrance, Calif.
“Where are we going to get the technicians we need to service today’s vehicles and those of the future?” the Pennsylvania native asked. “We no longer can rely on on-the-job training, or on dealerships ‘stealing’ employees from this manufacturer or that manufacturer. We need to secure our own talent; we have to grow our own.”
The associate-degree PACT program dovetails with Penn College’s unique combination of automotive and academic training to give tomorrow’s employees the skills they need to find work at Honda/Acura dealerships, and the college is the first partner school at which students can transfer into a four-year automotive technology management major to give them an even sharper edge.
Dealer representatives attended from as far away as Hagerstown, Md., and Syracuse, N.Y., and Petas urged all of them to take advantage of the day’s access to students 120 automotive majors attended one of the morning sessions by reminding, “The students that you mentor today will become the highly skilled technicians of tomorrow … bright, motivated young people with the ability to analyze information, diagnose and solve complex problems.”
Brian Moore, Honda’s industry education coordinator, noted that PACT’s benefits make that hiring decision a simple one.
“These students will leave Penn College with a solid understanding of Honda products,” he said. “They already will be credited with 65 percent of the training that you are currently required to provide to your technicians.”
Discussions about implementing a PACT program at Penn College began some 18 months ago, and Moore explained how he was won over by the college’s attractiveness on four levels: quality of the education, professionalism of the staff and instructors, resources available to students, and strong support from the administration.
“It is our pleasure to be partnered with such a diversified, growing and technologically advanced company,” said Davie Jane Gilmour, Penn College president, who found Honda’s slogan “The Power of Dreams” particularly fitting for the forward-looking PACT initiative.
“The future of the automotive industry lies with both the manufacture of cleaner-burning and more environmentally friendly vehicles, and the ability to maintain those vehicles once purchased,” she said. “Today, the technicians of the future have the opportunity to meet the vehicles of tomorrow, courtesy of one of the leading companies of today and tomorrow a model for success in any industry.”
In conjunction with two presentations by Stephen Ellis, Honda’s fuel-cell vehicle program manager, a couple of innovative cars a natural-gas Civic GX and a hydrogen-powered FCX were on display in the Parkes Automotive Technology Center.
Ellis said dealer support of college automotive programs is every bit as crucial as gasoline-powered vehicles give way to hybrids and beyond.
“Hybrids and natural-gas vehicles will grease the skids on this ‘pathway to hydrogen’ and pay massive benefits as we move toward fuel-cell vehicles,” he said. “The new service technicians working on today’s hybrids and natural-gas vehicles will be the apprentices for hydrogen vehicles of the future, and you will be a cut above the competition.”
Ellis met with a standing-room-only crowd of students and faculty in the morning and with dealer representatives in the afternoon. The group then adjourned to the Thompson Professional Development Center for remarks from Colin W. Williamson, dean of transportation technology, and others, before returning to the automotive lab for a ribbon-cutting and reception surrounded by vehicles from local dealers and student members of the PCCustoms collision-repair car club.
In addition to internship opportunities with sponsoring dealerships throughout the mid-Atlantic region, Honda provides specialty tools, a fleet of vehicles on which PACT students receive education and state-of-the-art instructor training.
The first PACT offerings will be in the Spring 2006 semester, with the initial internship opportunities arising that following summer. Course work is taught by Automotive Service Excellence-certified instructors, under the stringent guidelines of the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation.