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Thursday, 30 June 2005 17:00

Advisory committee keeps Houston UTI CR program on track

Written by Janet Chaney
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This spring over 40 collision industry professionals traveled to the Houston, Texas Universal Technical Institute (UTA) facility to serve on the school's National Collision Repair and Refinish Technology (CRRT) Advisory Board. UTI hosts this two-day meeting once a year to stay in touch with the collision industry and its incipient issues. They also host a Local Advisory Council once a year. 

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UTI Director of Employment Services Chery Gegelman explained that "our goal is to meet or exceed industry expectations. The objective of the Advisory Board meetings is to review curriculum, and let us know if we are staying on track."

The Universal Technical Institute has grown from humble beginnings. Founded in 1965 by Robert I. Sweet in Phoenix, Arizona with 11 automotive students, the Institute has since graduated more than 80,000 students and operates six campuses throughout the United States. UTI cam-puses are in Texas, Arizona, Southern Cali-fornia, Illinois, Penn-sylvania, and the NASCAR Technical Institute in the heart of NASCAR country, North Carolina.

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Universal Technical Institute Collision Repair and Refinish Technology Building at the Houston, Texas Campus.
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Kevin Kemp (l) of Crown Collision Center in Gilbert, Arizona is reviewing a major repair with technician Michael Indrisek.

The collision repair area of the Houston campus is 65,000 sq. ft., with new construction continuing to round out this collision facility at over 70,000 sq. ft. by the end of this year. This complex includes classroom and lab space. In this high tech educational environment, shop space is the lab. Bruce Gamroth, education manager of the Collision Repair Program stated: "We currently have 700 students in the 12 month program and I am proud to report UTI's system wide placement rate is 87%."

Six modules comprise the CRRT curriculum: Non-structural Repair; Mechanical and Electrical Repair; Structural Repair; Estimating and Customer Service; Refin-ishing; and Auto Customizing. A prime objective at UTI is to raise the bar a notch above what is expected in the collision industry. They are meeting those objectives by training with the best equipment, facilities and personnel.

The state-of-the-art equipment list at UTI fills the labs to meet training requirements for all students. The school uses DuPont refinish products, sprayed with HVLP guns only, in three down draft booths, one cross-flow booth, three down draft closed-top open-front booths, two double prep stations and four cut-in booths. There are 12 full frame racks - Chief, Blackhawk and Kansas Jack. Additionally in the structural repair lab are four Blackhawk floor systems. Computerized measuring is taught using Velocity, Chief Genesis II, Apex and Hein-Werner.

Education Director Ed Fletcher is supported by three Education Managers - Gamroth, Kelley Lowery and Rich Ullery. I-CAR and ASE are an integral component in the UTI CRRT curriculum.

Manufacturer-specific training

The CRRT program offers manufacturer-specific training, working in concert with Toyota/Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Greg Butts is the CRRT Education Supervisor for the Mercedes-Benz Elite Program. His classroom is the Mercedes-Benz Technology Education Center. Students must pass and maintain a strict regimen to participate in this specialized training program. They must keep a 3.0 grade point average and have a 97.5 percent attendance record. A student will have to agree to mandatory drug testing and a background check and will be interviewed in depth to discover aptitude and attitude. In some cases, Mercedes-Benz may cover tuition and the student will be placed in a Mercedes-Benz facility anywhere in the United States.

In addition to normal curriculae, UTI students take a learning assessment style test, to identify their learning style "We don't want to be the old snore and bore classroom style," Gegelman emphasized. "We kept hearing from the industry that students need to be more than technicians. They need to be skilled in customer service, have a positive attitude, present themselves well, and communicate in a professional manner." To address and meet these needs UTI developed a program called Success Track.

Success Track

Success Track is a three-tiered program beginning with the "Jump Start" phase. Structured like a retreat, this two-day program is a "life" course. Defining what it means to live above the line or below the line, goal setting, determining what will get in the way and how to move over the obstacles. Professionalism starts with this class and weaves through the entire UTI program.

The next step of the Success Track is "Pit Stop." Students run a virtual shop for two days in a table top exercise. Titles are assigned and each person has duties delegated to them on 3x5 cards. It is a complete collision shop operation from assigning work, tracking profits, auditing, and job costing along with all the unexpected "crises" included. The final step of Success Track is Victory Lane.

Advisory Council

The CRRT Advisory Council is an important part of the ongoing process at UTI. The two-day Council meeting is interactive between Education Directors and Council members. The candid session asks these industry professionals the hard questions and looks for constructive answers for their programs. UTI asks Council members: "Are our programs configured to meet the needs of industry and do the courses that make up each program appropriately cover the subject matter, while at the same time meeting the professional development needs of our graduates?" Not easy to answer!

The Advisory Council is a work in progress. Detailed reports from previous meetings are reviewed at each meeting and points of discussion are continued to conclusion. UTI is serious about the advice from the Advisory Council. Each suggestion is reviewed and, in most cases, implemented in a timely manner. In addition, follow up reports are distributed to keep the Council informed of our progress with their suggestions.

Janet Chaney has served in many facets of the collision repair industry. She is now looking after the best interests of her clients from Desert Hills, Arizona. E-mail her at janet_chaney@earthlink.net.


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