Justin Gentz loves to go fast. He built his first engine when he was a sophomore in high school. Now, through UAA’s GM Automotive Service Educational Program, Gentz is learning to work on the latest in automotive technology — including some very fast cars.
A former New York City garbageman, Giancarlo Mone is a both a first-generation Italian-American and—as of this semester—a first-generation college student, too. “I don’t see myself moving back,” he noted. “I wanted to see intellectual smarts in a blue-collar world, and I feel Alaska has that.”
Want to work on the Dodge Challenger? Or a Jeep Wrangler? Maybe that rare winterized Maserati or Alfa Romeo?
Through a new partnership between Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), automotive students and current technicians now have greater access to the company’s wide fleet of vehicles without leaving the state.
The new partnership between the university and automaker will expand opportunities for students, save money for the dealerships, and meet a growing national need for technicians. Currently, Alaska’s Chrysler dealerships send technicians to training centers in the Lower 48. This program will start training students on FCA cars before they reach the dealerships, and allow current technicians to receive up-to-date training in Anchorage instead.
The partnership is a product of the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), a nonprofit that connects the dots between colleges and companies in transportation, energy and manufacturing. Through the new agreement, FCA gives the university access to web-based training programs typically available only to full-time technicians, and allows a UAA faculty member to earn certifications as an FCA trainer.
“If you want to work for Anchorage Chrysler as a service technician, you would have to do these training modules that we’re just basically going to integrate into our program” explained Jeff Libby, director of the university’s Transportation and Power Division. That saves time for students, and allows them to graduate with industry-recognized certifications. UAA already offers a similar track with General Motors. “It definitely means that they’re going to have employment opportunities,” Libby said.
The partnership will unfold in two steps. First, UAA will incorporate the automaker’s online training into its regular automotive curriculum. NC3 predicts students who complete the FCA online training—which keeps pace with new models and technology—will be able to perform 50 percent of warranty work in a service department by the time they graduate.
“We have jobs in the maritime industry, with the seafood processing industry, and construction, mining, trucking industry is pretty supportive of us,” he said. “And our program is NATEF accredited, the National Automotive Technology Education Foundation, the only one in Alaska that has the accreditation. It’s a big deal.”
Libby says they’ve seen a 20 percent increase in enrollment in the past two years, due to the job demand and pay.
It’s brash. It’s bold. It growls and grumbles like a caged beast in the corner, strapped tight to the floor of the Auto Diesel Technology building.
Equal parts beauty and beast, the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the latest addition to UAA’s fleet of GM-donated classroom cars. “GM has been awful darn good to us for a while now,” said Darrin Marshall, associate professor of GM automotive courses. “This is just the pinnacle.”