Subaru of America recently donated a 2019 Subaru Ascent to Blue Ridge Community College’s Automotive Systems Technology program along with various other software to help more proactively train future car repair technicians.
The Ascent is valued at $32,970, and Subaru of America also donated a Subaru DSTi Vehicle Interface and Operational Software valued at $9,800 and $2,850, respectively.
The local sponsoring dealership is Hunter Automotive Group, but Blue Ridge also works with other manufacturers throughout the region.
Blue Ridge Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development/Continuing Education Dr. Chris English said the school’s relationship with Subaru came about through its relationship with the National Automotive Technicians’ Education Foundation (NATEF), which certifies schools’ training. Blue Ridge itself is a master-certified training center. As a testament to this, Blue Ridge was recognized as an Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) training center several years back.
“This program really connected the secondary to the post-secondary level. We offer dual enrollment coursework for high schools, then we have our regular automotive program at post-secondary level,” English said.
AYES allows students to do job shadowing and internships while in high school to gain experience early, so when they transition to a community college, they’re already accustomed to the programs. It’s through these well-established relationships that Blue Ridge has received the cars and programs like those donated by Subaru.
Subaru founded a program of its own several years back called Subaru University that combined the youth program AYES and what a traditional automotive training program would look like. This allows certain schools — including Blue Ridge – to serve as a training center for that region.
“If we’re going to train on Subaru, we’ve got to have the proper training mechanisms, software and components to deliver training,” English said.
Both the new Ascent and a previously donated 2012 Subaru Forester rotate back and forth between the Transylvania County Campus and Henderson County Campus, to give each school an equal amount of time with each car.
English praised Automotive Systems Technology instructor Brian Johnson for pioneering the relationship between the school and Subaru, which has been going strong for nearly three years. Subaru and other manufacturers provide a variety of items to Blue Ridge in addition to cars, such as airbags, transmissions, seats, etc. so students always have real components to work with and learn through.
“Subaru is a leading company in the U.S. for sales. They are high on safety standards, and with the way cars are made now, there is a significant amount of technology involved in a car. It’s very sophisticated, so our students need to learn using the most current technology to go out and get the jobs they can make a living with,” English added.
While the students are learning from Subaru, the skills they learn are transferable, so they’ll be able to do everything from rebuilding a transmission to diagnosing an engine performance problem in nearly any automotive setting.
Even though the automotive industry is a growing one, it’s also an aging one with a skills gap that’s ever-growing between the different ages of workers. English said the biggest need they’re seeing is in collision repair, which he describes as a “lost trade” that’s slowly fading.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), at the end of 2018, car dealerships wrote more than 310 million repair orders, with service and parts sales totaling more than $116 billion. Total new-vehicle sales topped $1 trillion, and the nation’s 16,753 franchised dealers sold 17.22 million light-duty vehicles.
If you’re a fan of cars, Blue Ridge has got just the courses for you. For further information about the automotive industry and available classes at Blue Ridge, contact Brian Johnson at [email protected].