Autotech program cranks up rigor, preparation

Shannon Keyser

The automotive technology program earned certification from the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation (NATEF) which gave them a distinction shared by only 60 other schools in Texas.

“We had to meet all the industry standards and adjust our curriculum,” autotech teacher Nathan McCann said. “We had to really bring them up to the NATEF standards that have been set including all of the tools and equipment in the shop.”

The process for gaining accreditation was much more complicated and intricate than it might sound.

“First, we had to evaluate our curriculum, rewrite it, and have meetings with advisory committees to look over the curriculum,” McCann said. “They told us what they liked and didn’t like, and then we made all the changes. Then we had to submit that curriculum to the NATEF office in Virginia, have them approve it, and then bring up the standards for our tools and equipment, which cost about $300,000.”

With the certification, the students have the advantage of carrying on what they learned to other schools if they have to move.

“The certification is also nationally accredited,” McCann said. “If a student leaves from this program and their family moves across the United States, everything they did right here, assuming that school’s NATEF certified, advances right into the next school.”

The certification inspires students to learn efficiently in the program, while also learning real-world skills to enhance their future.

“Mr. McCann teaches safety, which is a big deal here,” junior Miguel Castillo said. “I want to be a mechanic, and the program makes me want to work harder and harder.”

The autotech program helps students get a head-start in their career by giving them experience they will use in the future.

“The car lifts, the alignment machine, everything we have is identical to the equipment they’ll be operating in the car dealerships and automotive shops,” McCann said. “They’re actually getting real world experience here in high school, and as soon as they walk out of here, they’ll be able to do the exact same thing out in the field.”

With 63% of jobs not requiring a bachelor’s degree, programs like autotech provide students with opportunities to be successful.

“Education nowadays has changed with so many career tech fields going in that don’t require a full bachelor’s degree, but a lot of them are not getting filled due to improper training,” McCann said. “Auto technicians, welders, and machinists are some examples that can make up to over $100,000 a year in salaries. It’s a very untapped market where we need more people going into the industry.”

There are many different opportunities that are available through the autotech program and students are taught skills they need to pursue a career.

“The course gives me options in many fields that I can go into after high school immediately,” sophomore Odilon Gomez said. “There’s a lot of options available like diesel mechanics, regular mechanics, or airplane mechanics.”

The program provides options for careers outside of the typical retail and food industries that most students default to if they do not pursue a college degree.

“We learn a lot in class including how to change oil, which can help me save money later in life,” junior Hagen Aguilar said. “I also plan to go to college and get my engineering degree which will help me get a good job and not work at a fast food restaurant like everyone else.”