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As Staffing Shortages Affect Many Industries, ACC Wants To Help Train More Toyota Technicians

A person's Toyota Prius.
Jenna VonHofe
/
KUT
A person's Toyota Prius is parked outside the Austin Public Library's George Washington Carver Branch on Election Day 2014. Austin Community College is planning to launch a program to train Toyota service technicians amid a shortage of skilled workers.

Austin Community College is expanding its automotive training program to help car maker Toyota fill the workforce pipeline with skilled technicians and students get to higher-paying jobs sooner.

The community college is partnering with Toyota Motor North America to train students to be service technicians with an expertise in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. ACC has a similar program already with Honda and Acura vehicles.

The expansion of the training program comes as many industries — like hospitals, hotels and restaurantsare struggling with staffing shortages. Kristin Land, the program coordinator, said dealerships are desperate for more skilled workers to fill the pipeline as older workers leave those jobs.

“I think they’re at a point where their experienced individuals are starting to get to that retirement age,” Land said. “And so, they’re having a lot of their technicians that they relied upon over the years begin to retire.”

James Latham, an ACC automotive instructor with the program, said people at dealerships in Central Texas who are in charge of hiring technicians want to do what they can to help create more skilled technicians.

Nowadays, he said, a technician needs to have strong mechanical, electrical and computer skills to be able to repair a modern vehicle.

“It used to be a lot simpler than it is now,” Latham said. “All those little buttons you have in your car that do something fancy — somebody’s got to program it, recalibrate it, and fix it if it breaks.”

As part of the partnership, Toyota is providing the training curriculum, shop equipment and 18 new cars to start with. Depending on the class, the cars will be programmed with a subset of over 600 faults. It will be up to the students to determine what the problems are.

The training program will be about 20% classroom learning and 80% hands-on learning in the workshop. Students will also spend eight weeks as paid apprentices working in a dealership’s service center to apply what they learned on campus in the real world.

Though job offers are not guaranteed, Land said the dealerships will likely want to retain those apprentices as regular employees after they graduate from the program.

The program hasn't launched yet but people who are interested can sign up to receive information and updates. To apply to the program, students will need to go through an interview process and take Toyota’s mechanical aptitude test. Only 15 students will be selected for the program each fall.

Local dealers were hoping ACC could produce more than 50 program graduates per year, but class size is limited based on Toyota’s quality guidelines. ACC is also limited in workshop and classroom space.

The entire program will cost about $6,800 for in-district students and will begin at the ACC Round Rock campus next fall.

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