ASE certification: LCCTE auto shop preparing students for smooth rideBy BUSTER WOLFE,
Automobile mechanics students who graduate from the Lamar County Career and Technical Education Center in Purvis already have a jump on other young mechanics looking for jobs.
They are certified.
After a two-year process that culminated a couple of weeks ago, the LCCTE automobile mechanics program passed certification by the Automotive Standards of Excellence, or ASE. Instructor Leslie Brown said the result is a national certification that is recognized by the industry nationwide.
“Automotive Service Excellence put together a program that is their own set of standards, their own set of policies that secondary and post-secondary schools have to meet those standards,” he said. “It is very difficult. Every single hand tool was inspected, along with our electrical outlets, our lifts and every piece of equipment. Everything had to be OSHA approved. One little nick in an electrical tool would be a fail. They were really meticulous.”
The certification not only involved the equipment and moving parts, Brown said.
“For us to get this, of course, our facility had to meet their guidelines, our curriculum had to meet their guidelines and our students’ progress had to meet their guidelines,” he said. “I had to be ASE-certified myself.”
The physical plant involved some sprucing up.
“We spent several hours up here a week or two before our actual on-site evaluation painting the floors and striping the floors,” Brown said. “We pretty much did everything we possibly could ourselves in-house with the school.”
The work was worth it, Brown said, because completing the program brings instant credibility.
“The kids can leave this program now and anytime they put in for a job, on their application or in their interview they can let that employer know that they have automotive training through an ASE-certified program,” he said. “That doesn’t just raise the bar for the kids, but it also raises the bar for the entry-level technician coming in.”
The payoff for the students is the paycheck, Brown said.
“They can actually leave this program and start at a level above what your average technicians start now,” he said. “The pay increase is tremendous. If they give me 100 percent in here and after they leave the program continue to give 100 percent, the rate that they steadily progress themselves is unreal.”
LCCTE Director Tina Byrd said getting the program ASE-certified is tremendous.
“In this rigorous process that you have to get prepared for, not only does the instructor have to be licensed to a certain level, they have to make sure your facility and what you are teaching meet certain criteria,” she said. “So, we have had to make a lot of improvements to meet those standards. The State Department of Education is moving more and more toward industry certifications for students that have finished their second year (of technical training). Eventually, the CPAS will go away and will be replaced by ASE certification.”
The MS-CPAS, or the Mississippi Career Planning and Assessment System, is the test given to secondary and postsecondary career and technical education completers, and the results are used to measure technical-skill attainment.
Byrd said the move to certification is the wave of the future.
“They are slowly working on the programs, and the programs that were not successful in passing the inspection are being either closed or converted to other programs, depending on what the demand is around the state,” she said. “We are fortunate to have several employers who are wanting workers. Brown has already had questions about his graduates. They have a question of going on to Pearl River (Community College), straight into the workforce or they could do both.”
A salary that allows workers to make a livable wage is the target, Byrd said.
“Our goal as a whole society is not to have to live on minimum wage,” she said. “That’s just a job you have while you are in high school. When you graduate, we want you to have a livable wage. Minimum wage is not livable wage. Everything is so specialized today, and opportunities are opening up everywhere.”
Brown said it may be too early for his students to get the full grasp of having ASE certification when they finish the automobile mechanics program.
“They realize what it means, but they haven’t understood yet,” he said. “When they start going out and apply for a job, then is when it will sink in with them.”