The Automotive Technology Program at Los Medanos College has involved students in their interactive Live Shop since the early 1980s.
The Live Shop is a certified auto shop in the state of California in which students enrolled in automotive classes have the opportunity to work on real cars for customers.
“We keep work orders. By law we have to do that because we’re a licensed actual shop in the state of California,” said automotive instructor Phil Torres.
Although students undergo instruction about car repair and more in their automotive classes, the Live Shop provides them with an opportunity to practice those skills on real cars with genuine issues.
“You get to work on actual cars [in the shop]. People come in and get really dirty and mess up their $200 shoes, because they don’t realize you actually work on real cars,” said student Hector Olivares.
While the automotive students are the ones working on customer cars, there is always an instructor present to ensure that no issues arise. Because the Live Shop is student-oriented, repairs may take longer to complete than a typical auto shop. Regardless, the pricing at the LMC Live Shop is inexpensive compared to regular shops.
“We charge 25% of the industry pricing or less, which is very reasonable,” said automotive instructor Stan Gozzi.
Los Medanos offers a level of automotive training to students unmatched by any other school in Northern California. Currently partnered with big name brands such as Chrysler, Subaru, Ford and Audi, students get the opportunity to train with professional-grade tools in the shop. These tools, that usually cost thousands of dollars, are supplied to students for free due to the partnerships LMC has made over the years.
“The average mechanics toolbox includes $120,000 worth of gear. The toolbox itself is $10,000. And when you work at a dealership you’re expected to show up with your own toolbox,” said student Rich K.
Not only are the tools necessary for training costly, but the training itself is very expensive. Basic training to complete Level 0 requirements for the typical automotive employee costs a minimum of $30,000. LMC offers Level 0, and Level 1, training for free so students can begin working at a dealership or auto shop as soon as they graduate.
“We’re trying to offer students the opportunity to knock out their Level 0, Level 1, so they can accelerate and get a little better pay. So they can jump right into work their first day,” said Torres.
For the past year, the automotive program at LMC has been working tirelessly to acquire their national accreditation through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). This accreditation will provide the LMC Automotive Technology Program with further opportunities and donations to their Live Shop.
Students currently have the ability to achieve their ASU Technician Certification, which is supposed to give that individual national recognition for their work. That means that the student can travel anywhere in the United States and work as a certified technician. NATEF is a larger scale version of ASU and is a national recognition for the school.
“The NATEF is a lot of paperwork, a lot of administrative, a lot of busy work. During the Final Review [for NATEF], which is all we have left, a group of tradespeople come and check it [the shop] out and give us the okay,” said Gozzi.
After the auto shop is NATEF certified, they expect a lot of new resources and partnerships to arise.
Students in the automotive program, whether they plan on becoming an auto technician or are a hobbyist, have a level of opportunity that most programs do not. The automotive program is currently offering 15 different courses regarding various topics, and allow students to participate in the Live Shop if they so choose.
“I conceptualize more than I actually work on stuff, and it takes me longer to work on things because I’m working with one hand. But you learn by doing,” said student Stefan Ahrendt. “Necessity is the mother of invention. You should take an interest in something you depend on every day, so why not learn something about your car.”
For more information about the Automotive Technology Program at LMC, contact Phil Torres at [email protected] or go to https://www.losmedanos.edu/auto/