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Bevill State's Auto Technology Program is One of the Best


August 06, 2012

Reprinted with permission from The Journal Record

HAMILTON
- Chad Bryant would have been a great fit in the Old West.  As a gunfighter. One who wanted to see who was the best, the fastest.  But Bryant isn’t a gunfighter. He’s an automotive technology instructor at Bevill State Community College-Hamilton.

Recently, he wanted to find out just how good he is as an automotive instructor, how good of a job his automotive program is doing, and actually, how well the automotive department and Bevill State, overall, function as a team. And just like an Old West gunfighter, like most gunfights back then, someone came looking for someone who was supposedly faster. No one usually made two jaspers take to the street to shoot it out. Neither did anyone force Bryant to want to know. It was all voluntary. To Bryant, it was well-worth the extra effort on everyone’s part at Bevill State. The report came back. As one of those Old West gun hands would have put it quite matter-of-factly, “Bevill State’s automotive department is just pretty doggone good.” The evaluations were conducted and the report came back from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in Leesburg, Va., and Bevill State’s Automotive Technology Department has achieved accreditation by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in Leesburg, Va.

Bryant explained, “Our program was evaluated according to strict standards set by the automotive industry. We were evaluated by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) in all areas from our facilities to the number of instructional hours. Our department has the latest tools and equipment. Now, more than ever, our graduates will be prepared to enter productive entry-level positions.”

Dead-Serious Department
For Bryant, this certification provides a means to prove to those in the automotive industry that Bevill State’s Automotive Technology Department is  “a dead-serious department, that the quality of our program is one you can put up against anyone.” He stressed, “The NATEF program certification is my proof that we are a quality program. It is recognized as the international symbol of excellence.”  For Bryant, the journey to this point in the certification process actually began in January 2007 under the guidance of then-automotive instructor Lynn Karr.

The Evaluation Process
The 36-year-old Bryant, who is a native of Marion County and a graduate of Winfield City High School, said the evaluation process involved two major steps: An extensive self-evaluation, followed by an on-site evaluation. Program instructors, administrators, and advisory committee members rated the program on 10 standards encompassing: Purpose, Administration, Learning Resources, Finances, Student Services, Instruction, Equipment, Facilities, Instructional Staff, and Cooperative Work Agreements. BSCC’s automotive instructor said this evaluation helps target areas that are outstanding and those that need improvement, according to national standards that have been identified by representatives of the automotive industry. Programs then submit their application and self-evaluation materials to the NATEF office. If it appears that a program has met the standards, an on-site evaluation is scheduled. The on-site evaluation will be conducted by an Evaluation Team Leader (ETL) and also by local technicians who agree to serve as team members. The ETL is an educator who has also earned ASE certified master technician designation and has been trained by NATEF to lead the evaluation. The evaluation team submits its final report to NATEF and ASE grants accreditation if the program meets all of the standards. Programs must be reaccredited every five years. Bryant said the ASE provides those seeking certification with a booklet of standards that need to be addressed, which, in turn, are addressed by the evaluation team. “You have to evaluate yourself, and if you lie to yourself, they’re going to catch you,” Bryant noted matter-of-factly. “They looked at the entire school to make sure that administration, other departments provide the support these students need.” He added that the State of Alabama requires the secondary schools to be certified in four areas regarding automotive technology: brakes, steering and suspension, electrical, and engine performance, “or state funding will be lost.”

But Bryant has gone even farther than that regarding his personal certification. “I’m certified in these four, and four more: manual transmissions, automatic transmissions, engine repair, and air conditioning and heat and ventilation.” Bryant said that having the tools of the trade in becoming an automotive technician are a must, but if someone has just graduated or has been laid off and wants to begin this field of study, he may not have the tools needed to work as an automotive technician. “If you’re serious about becoming an automotive technician, from a realistic standpoint, you may not have the tools, but I don’t require them to have tools to start our program. It’s better to have tools when you finish,” Bryant said.

What it Takes to Become an Automotive Technician
Bryant said persons interested in entering the two-year program and becoming an automotive technician should possess basic knowledge in math, science, and physics. The introduction of computers in diagnostic testing also places value on general computer knowledge. Good communication skills and average physical abilities are also required of automotive technicians.  Concerning having the very latest tools and equipment for use in his department, Bryant credits Bevill State’s administration for providing his automotive technician students “with that next piece of technology.”

Skills for success
Among the various occupations Bevill State graduates are qualified to seek are automotive technicians, managers, automotive parts sales, service sales, assemblers, and warranty clerks. Bryant said, “The majority of graduates from the Bevill State Automotive Technology program move into the field as automotive technicians. The automotive technician troubleshoots mechanical or electrical problems involving the automobile and then makes adjustments, repairs, or replacements. The automotive technician also plays a vital role in the avoidance of mechanical troubles by providing and prescribing preventive maintenance.” 

Wide-Open Job Market
Bryant said the job market for automotive technicians is wide-open, but much more so if a graduate is willing to travel. “North to south, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Tupelo (Miss.), as long as you’re willing to drive or relocate, we’ve had success placing students willing to be placed,” Bryant said. “Any student that wants to be placed, can be placed.”

The instructor, who was selected by his peers as the Hamilton campus’ 2011 Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year, said he has former students working at Fikes Chevrolet in Hamilton, several
working in Fayette, Cullman, and the list goes on. “Whether it’s at an independent shop or a new car dealership, we haven’t had a problem with placement,” Bryant said.  “There’s a demand, in my opinion, for auto technicians. When the economy’s down, auto technicians are needed at dealerships fixing used vehicles. When it’s (the economy) up, they’re needed to perform warranty work on new vehicles.”

Real-World Experience
Bryant notes that he gives his students “real-world experience” by allowing them to work on their own vehicles. He added, “We’re not going to take away from the bread-and-butter of our local businesses, though.” The ever-changing world of automotive technology poses new challenges, even for Bryant. The developing line of hybrid vehicles, which combine an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors, presents Bevill State’s auto technician students with something totally new and different to practice their evolving skills on. “I touch on hybrids in one of my classes called Selected Topics and I put in information which is relevant but we don’t actually cover in the course. This information is not required by the state but I do cover it for the benefit of the students,” Bryant said.

Bryant added that though his students do not actually have a hybrid on-hand to work on, BSCC instructor Dr. Greg Taylor’s hybrid car is brought in for maintenance occasionally and gives them some hands-on experience with one. “We’ll work on anything regardless of make or model, domestic or foreign, even though foreign vehicles do require a separate set of diagnostic equipment,” he said, noting that he even had some of his students’ motorcycles in his shop at that time. He said that while the college’s automotive technology course is considered “introductory,” if one of his students “chooses to go to a dealership in Atlanta (Ga.), Birmingham, wherever, they’ve been exposed to the basics.”

Bryant said he enjoys sharing what he knows. He received his associate degree from Bessemer State Technical College and his bachelor of science in career technical education from Athens State University in August of last year. Prior to joining the faculty at Bevill State, he worked in local business and industry. As a faculty member, he works diligently to educate and develop his students, encouraging student engagement. Under his guidance, students compete annually in the Skills USA competition. His students have placed first in the Alabama competition and for four of the past five years have earned the opportunity to compete in the national Skills USA competition. To prepare his students for the Skills USA interview competition, he asks faculty members to conduct a mock interview. This experience has proven most beneficial in preparing students for both the Skills USA competition and for real-world interviews. “I enjoy sharing what I know. I like to see the light bulb come on in those young techs,” Bryant concluded.

Now, Chad Bryant knows just how good Bevill State’s Automotive Technology Department really is. And he didn’t have to visit the O.K. Corral for a shootout to do it!

For information about scholarship programs, take a look at free scholarships for high school seniors

For additional information about Bevill State’s Automotive Technology Department, interested persons may contact Instructor Chad Bryant at 921-3177, ext. 5368, or e-mail him at cbryant@bscc.edu.


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