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Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC) has earned ASE certification in four automotive repair areas.
According to Kevin Fike, who teaches automotive repair, ASE means Automotive Service of Excellence. It's an automotive service standards program run by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Fike said that ASE is the industry standard and it's almost mandatory that mechanics be certified in at least one area. There are a total of eight areas and BSTC's certification in brakes, engine performance, electrical/electronic systems and suspension and steering covers half of them. This certification means that his students can potentially pass the national certification exam in all four years.
It also means that the BSTC program counts for one of the two years of work experience that a mechanic must have, along with passing the exam, to become ASE certified. This, in turn, makes the students more attractive to employers and means money in their pockets.
In order to get the BSTC program certified, Fike had to give NATEF the names of three former students. NATEF then checked them out to see what they are doing now, and how they are doing. There was also a load of paperwork that Fike had to submit. Fike said that he started last year.
The process culminated when four NATEF inspectors came to the school in October while classes were in session. They spent two days looking the program over. They looked at the facility and equipment and they inspected the curriculum and safety procedures.
One of the factors that Fike had to show is that he has an advisory committee. These are professionals from area repair facilities. The idea of an advisory committee is to make sure that Fike is teaching the skills employers need.
The committee also makes sure that the equipment being used is the same that students will use on the job. Fike said that their input carries weight when he requests an expensive piece of equipment. Occasionally employers even donate equipment. For example, Fike said that Murray and Bolling donated an on board brake lathe. This, said Fike, is state of the art equipment.
Of course, students need vehicles to repair, and these come from various sources. Some come from advisory committee members and others from the community. The students repair them and the vehicles are auctioned.
They receive a wide variety of vehicles ranging from the recent to the old. One vehicle in the shop is a 1937 Chevy pick-up truck. This poses a challenge because getting parts and repair information takes Internet research.
"The computer is an information miracle," Fike commented.
Computers are an integral part of automotive repair. The shop has computer data bases with repair information on everything made in the last quarter century. This includes the latest recall information.
Along with learning how to search these computer-based sources of information, students must learn how to deal with the computers in all modern cars.
"There is more computer technology in this field than about anything out there," Fike said.
And, it's constantly changing.
Fike said that the demand is high for trained automotive technicians. He said that some repair shops are willing to pay for post high school technical college for graduates who will commit to work at that shop for two or three years.
"There just are not enough people out there to keep up with the technology," he said.