ST. PETERSBURG — The Automotive Service Technology program at Pinellas Technical College (PTC) starts every student on the same page whether they are brand new to car maintenance or grew up helping dad in the garage. Students of varying backgrounds from engineering to nursing have enrolled in this revamped program.
During the first 12 weeks of the course, students learn about each tool’s function and tool safety. Safety knowledge must be demonstrated by each student before they can get hands on experience. Students can then move into the second 12 week phase with instructor Keith Whiteley as he teaches them the ins and outs of basic electrical systems.
“I have a reputation of being fair but firm,” Whiteley said. “But when they leave me they have a very good understanding of electricity and how it works.”
Instructor Shaun Gill
Growing up in New York Whitely helped his grandfather work on police cruisers. There was never a doubt in his mind that he would have a career in the automotive industry. While he worked fulltime at a Toyota dealership in Tampa, he taught automotive part time at the Clearwater PTC campus for a year.
When the program returned to the St. Pete campus, located at 901 34th St. S, he became a full-time instructor and helped established a new structure for an improved program.
Students learn about brakes, engines and steering suspension for a total of 18 weeks with instructor Guy Blazier and afterwards return to Whiteley’s supervision for 12 weeks of engine performance training. He likes to bug the cars so that students will be prepared to diagnose the specific problem, thus simulating a real world scenario.
Automotive Service Technology consists of two programs: Automotive Service Technology 1, which is 1050 hours and Automotive Service Technology 2, which is 750 hours. These programs consist of a planned sequence of courses that is based on the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.
Some students become ASE certified before graduating the program, and other students have found employment as mechanics prior to graduation just as recent graduate Shawn Gleason did.
“You just got to get your foot in the door at some shops,” Gleason said. “The best way to do it is just go yourself and show that you’re ready to work. If they tell you to wait then just wait. I waited a month after I went into this one shop and now I’m a full-time mechanic there.”
Gleason started as a part-time mechanic at a local shop during his enrollment in the program and on the day he graduated, they promoted him to full-time lead mechanic.
Angelo Lombardi envisioned himself as a nurse from the time he was a child until about five months ago when he enrolled in the program and discovered his true passion for mechanical maintenance.
“I went in the LPN program here actually,” he said. “And the first day I decided it wasn’t for me so I came over here. I’ve always loved pickup trucks and cars, and my dad and I used to work on his World War II Jeep that he had in the garage.”
He explained that although he enjoyed working in the garage with his dad, he never saw himself making a career in the automotive industry. After he spent the first week in the automotive program he was hooked and felt in his heart that it was the right decision for him.
Florida Department of Labor predicts that in the next 10 years there will be a need for some 30,000 technicians in this state alone due to retirement and the high demand for ASE skills, and Whiteley wants both men and women to take advantage of the training being offered at the St. Pete campus.
Auto repair is not just a man’s job. Women are equipped to do more than just drive cars. The old way of thinking that auto repair is a man’s job has gone by the wayside. Women are treated equally in the training program, and Whiteley has seen women have success in automotive jobs after graduation.
In less than two years you could be equipped with the skills to secure a high paying job that is highly in demand. Classes start March 4 and again on June 14. Class hours are Monday through Friday from 7-12 p.m.
If you’re interested in a career in the automotive industry, please visit www.pcsb.org/myptc or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.