When you think about an automotive program at the college level you might think of classes that only produce skilled mechanics trained to service cars. While that's certainly one possible outcome of BYU-Idaho's Automotive Technology program, students are preparing for a variety of professions in the field.
"I think a lot of people are under the mistaken idea that the Department of Automotive Technology is only training mechanics," said Justin Miller, a faculty member in the department. "What we're actually doing is training engineers."
Pressure on the automotive industry to produce safer, more efficient, and technologically savvy vehicles is fueling the creation of a staggering amount of specialized careers. Those include engineering and prototype building to testing and evaluation of vehicle parts and materials-professions students in the BYU-Idaho's program are being trained to do.
"There is a demand for educated and skilled people with an automotive degree and an engineering, manufacturing, or welding fabrication minor-people who know how to problem solve and how to make, design, and test vehicles," said Miller.
Students in this program gain the education and skills required to work in this industry through a combination of lectures and practical experiences in the Auto Lab. The lab is central to the student's education, providing them professional experience in evaluating, testing, and rebuilding vehicles from the community.
"The Auto Lab is a very practical experience for our students," said Miller. "When you experience the technology firsthand you get a much more thorough understanding of it than by reading about it in a textbook."
Recently the skills of students in the Automotive Technology program were tested as they competed at the state level for the chance to represent Idaho in this year's National Skills USA Olympics, the nation's largest industrial and trades competition. After taking first place in several events a BYU-Idaho student was awarded this opportunity.
This recent achievement exemplifies the success of students in BYU-Idaho's Automotive Technology program. Miller notes that the department's job placement rate is 100% in the automotive field, and BYU-Idaho graduates can be found in nearly every major company in the automotive industry.