UAA’s Automotive and Diesel offers students hands-on experience

UAA’s Automotive and Diesel Technology provides many opportunities for students including discounted tools, experiential learning and an Automotive Service Excellence certification.

UAA Automotive Skills Competition. Photo provided by Darrin Marshall.

UAA’s Automotive and Diesel Technology program offers multiple degrees and occupational endorsement certificates that incorporate on-the-job experience with classroom education.

Director of Automotive and Diesel Technology Darrin Marshall explained that the department is recognized as one of the best in the country because it offers associates and baccalaureate programs, certificates and has multiple connections with various automotive manufacturers.

Automotive and Diesel has long-lasting connections with General Motors, who has supported UAA’s automotive program through generous vehicle donations for decades.

“They’ve donated, over the last five years, close to $500,000 to $800,000 worth of stuff. They’ve given us five 2019 Chevy Pickups, a 2019 Cadillac XC4 and a GMC Canyon, and that’s just part of it. We just received a 2022 Silverado this year, so that’s a pretty big statement,” said Marshall.

Many donated vehicles originate from automotive manufacturers – such as General Motors or Chevrolet – who had previously agreed to give a customer a similar vehicle in the event of an automotive failure on purchase or after maintenance.

For students to learn on the latest donated vehicles, the Automotive and Diesel faculty install “bugs” on the car.

These bugs are on a switch located somewhere inside the vehicle where the student can not see. The vehicle has no issues before the bugs are installed, but the switches create different problems for the student to solve.

When students begin their hands-on work, the instructor clicks one of the switches and, for example, a check engine light appears.

The student is then given a “work order” – similar to what they would experience working in the field – and are tasked with diagnosing and explaining how to repair the vehicle failure.

Automotive and Diesel offers degrees and occupational endorsement certificates such as Automotive Specialist, Automotive Engine Performance and a two-year occupational endorsement certificate.

Marshall explained that students who are only interested in certificates do not have to complete any classes or credits that are not related to some form of the automotive industry.

Automotive and Diesel also offers an associates degree which only requires 12 credits of general education requirements.

UAA’s Automotive and Diesel also boasts the opportunity for students to acquire an Automotive Master certification as the department is Automotive Service Excellence accredited.

Automotive Service Excellence certifications consist of eight tests that – if passed – will earn a student the Master certification. Marshall explained that Master certification is sought out by many companies across the nation and internationally.

UAA’s Automotive and Diesel Technology department provides many opportunities for students to develop a career after graduation. To support that career, Automotive and Diesel offers massive discounts on tools.

“So the students that go through our program get half off of all Snap-on tools, MATCO tools and MAC tools. NAPA also gives our students a huge discount, which I believe is 10 percent above cost,” said Marshall.

The program also mandates a practicum, meaning students learn on the job experience before graduating so they are more informed when working outside of class or after graduation.

Marshall explained that educating students will combat the deficit of automotive technicians in the United States.

“They’ll stay in the field if they know more about what they're doing and they feel more competent and able, which generates people embracing the industry. That’s the idea – create something that gives them a little taste of the industry, help them to grow, and help them to know we have a fantastic facility loaded with quality instructors,” said Marshall.