Much like signing with an athletic team, 19 new Odessa College Automotive Technology students signed letters of commitment to the elite two-year specialized training Ford ASSET Program.
ASSET stands for Automotive Student Service Educational Training.
The program is aimed at filling the vast need for automotive technicians throughout the area using homegrown talent and helping those students embark on a sustainable career where they can earn good money.
The event was held at the Sewell Auto Tech building Thursday. The students were joined by representatives from their sponsor dealerships.
Odessa College Vice President for Instruction Tramaine Anderson thanked Collin Sewell and the Sewell Family of Dealerships for partnering with Odessa College throughout the decades. She noted that they donated the space that the signing ceremony was held in.
Director of Automotive and Diesel Technology Robert Turner said the students apply to OC, or the dealers themselves refer students. Students are paid during the internship.
“The students basically alternate between eight weeks here and eight weeks at the dealership. Those that are local get to work … part time while they are … in school …,” Turner said.
They earn an associate degree after two years. They also get 100 percent of the Ford training.
“With the addition later on this year with the battery electric vehicles, they also will be certified in electric vehicles … The cool thing about this program is that while they’re working they get two years’ credit for the five years that they need to get senior master certified. These students graduate, spend three more years in the field and … end up senior master certified by Ford, which normally takes about 10 to 15 years without the schooling,” Turner said.
On Thursday, he said, students signed a promissory note basically stating that they are going to represent the dealerships that are sponsoring them and OC.
Zachary Williams, assistant director of Automotive and Diesel Technology at OC, said this is a true career path that can set the students up for success for the rest of their lives.
“We genuinely do appreciate you, as well as the dealers that are here to sponsor these students. The work here is not done. Odessa College’s work isn’t complete until every dealer in our service area is here. There’s a need for technicians and Odessa College is taking steps to meet that need. We’re not only taking singular steps, but we’re taking multiple steps in every direction that we can,” Zachary Williams said. “The technician deficit in this country is very … strong and every dealer in every service industry is needing technicians. You all will be the future technicians of tomorrow and you will be the next technicians to train the entry-level technicians,” Zachary Williams added.
OC President Gregory Williams said the students have opportunities waiting for them once they finish acquiring their skills.
“There are employers and dealerships who are waiting for your services. They can’t wait to bring you into their teams because they need you and will make, in short order, many of you if you do this within five to 10 years of being at those dealerships, you will make a six-figure income …,” Gregory Williams said.
He added that they will have steady employment and they can go to any Ford dealership.
Zachary Williams said this group of students is “headstrong and ready to go.”
“Most of these students joined at a very short period of time. They are very dedicated to the process. Some of them were transferred from our traditional side, as well as being hired onto the ASSET program. I think these kids are set up for success. …,” he added.
Zachary Williams noted that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get through the program.
“The lucrative career opportunities here not only stop at base pay with technicians, but an automotive or diesel technician is one of the few jobs in where more work equals more money. It’s hard to say for some careers. Sometimes you put in more work and get less money. Sometimes you put in less work and get more money, but in the automotive technology, diesel technology fields, we get paid per job. So we get as much money as we can make and it is a very life-changing opportunity and it can be a way to escape any sort of generational sufferage of poverty, as well as to advance their lives to a level that they once may never have thought of,” Zachary Williams said.
He added that he wanted to thank the OC staff, dealerships and students.
Eighteen-year-old Luis Ordaz, Aaron Thiesfeld, 19, and Joseph Coleman, 17, were all thrilled with the chance to be part of the Ford ASSET program. None of them ever thought they would get a chance like this.
“I dreamed of an opportunity like this. I really thought it was going to stay a dream,” Ordaz said. “But now it’s coming to life.”
He said he got into fixing vehicles when he had trouble with his truck.
Asked what he would tell people who are thinking about trying the program, Ordaz said they should go for it.
“I heard about it. I wasn’t quite sure, but I did it anyway because I thought it would be good for me and I’m glad I did it,” he said.
Thiesfeld said he decided to try the program because he loves cars and he’s wanted to work on them since he saw the first Fast and Furious movies.
“They always make it look so easy fixing up cars in movies. But … Paul Walker was a big inspiration of mine and he actually worked and fixed up cars, so that’s something I want to do,” Thiesfeld said.
Coleman said this is an incredible opportunity and he plans to stick with it.
“(When) I was growing up, I didn’t really care for cars that much until my grandpa started talking to me. He, my dad and my uncle all made me start liking cars. They were just sitting there working on them and it became an interest which turned into a passion,” Coleman said.
He added that he thought he would “have to work my rear end off just to get close to something like this.”
“This was just handed to me and it’s not easy. It’s not just a cakewalk, but it’s an incredible opportunity that was presented to me,” Coleman said.