The partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and General Motors (GM) goes all the way back to 1982 when NOVA first offered the GM Automotive Service Education Program (ASEP) for students. Since then, the program at NOVA-Alexandria alone has graduated more than 700 students who quickly received job offers and jump started their careers in the automotive industry.
GM continues to strengthen its ties with NOVA, donating a red 2015 Corvette to the NOVA-Alexandria program for hands-on training purposes. The sporty ride will be used to train aspiring technicians in the GM ASEP program who work with GM dealerships while enrolled in the program and eventually graduate and receive full-time positions at those dealerships.
“We are proud to support training programs that prepare the next generation of automotive technicians,” said Rick Jackson, manager for GM ASEP. “Our commitment to our customers goes well beyond building a quality product. Our dedication to excellence starts at the training level by partnering with schools in communities around the globe to share our collective passion for the automotive industry and educate, inspire and motivate the technicians of tomorrow.”
GM’s continued commitment to identify and support the GM ASEP colleges and universities has produced more than 16,000 service technicians. Keith Brown, head of NOVA-Alexandria’s GM ASEP, said GM donates multiple vehicles and automotive components each year so students can have a realistic experience while earning their degree and necessary certifications to succeed in the automotive industry. Essentially, NOVA helps the auto industry by training students and creating a pipeline for skilled automotive technicians.
“The program is for a two-year associate degree. In a nutshell, these students get a degree that includes over 80 percent of the GM manufacturers’ training and they have a job after they complete the program,” Brown said. “When they start the program, they’re required to get a sponsorship at a General Motors dealership or AC Delco PSC, so that includes Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC as well as independent AC Delco shops. We work with them and we have relationships with a number of dealerships and shops in the area.
“I always tell my students to walk into any GM dealership in a 50-mile radius of campus and we have people there who will work with you. They’re placed in those dealerships to work there for a portion of the semester after taking classes here for the other portion of the semester.”
Brown added that this type of program is important because cars are continually changing, adding more and more technology with every new model. Today, working in the automotive industry requires knowledge about technology and the necessary software for a car to function and run properly. He said the Corvette has at least 15 different computers that function together in order for the car to work – including the push button start technology, electronically activated handles and wireless technology.
“A lot of times when you’re fixing a car now, it takes every bit as much of doing a software update as it is doing mechanical repairs. So in this field, you need to have that understanding of computer systems and how they function and interact along with the nuts and bolts of the car,” Brown explained. “Because of the technology in cars now, it’s 80 percent diagnosis and 20 percent repair when working on these cars.”
The technological aspect of the auto industry has created a challenge for dealerships. The work requires skilled technicians who are well-trained and certified. The GM partnership with NOVA helps fill this void by preparing them specifically for these positions. Brown said the program gives the students on-the-job training and the school component where they have the opportunity to earn a degree as well.
“The training they get in this program is the same training of a GM technician. This is huge for the students and beneficial for the dealers because we’re packaging it all into the program and preparing their future employees,” Brown said. “GM is a great help with supplying us with vehicles, components, tools and information for our curriculum.”
NOVA-Alexandria’s Automotive Program recently received a $1,825 grant from the NVCC Educational Foundation to purchase car batteries, supplies, tools and other necessary components to provide students with the resources they need for the program.
Along with GM ASEP, NOVA offers other disciplines in its automotive program. Students can also take courses for automotive technology, automotive maintenance and light repair, collision repair technology, diesel mechanics technology and welding. Automotive classes are offered at the Alexandria and Manassas campuses.
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.