The automotive technology program at Sierra College is “a mess.”
That’s what William Duncan, Sierra College president, told people at a board of trustees meeting Tuesday, May 14, according to ABC News10.
The college consequently decided to temporarily suspend the program.
Amy Schulz, dean of business and technology division, told The Union the decision came in order to give administrators the opportunity to update the program to the economy’s 21st century needs.
“It’s not discontinuing the program, it’s suspending the program in its current form,” said Schulz, meaning students who are within one year of finishing their certificate can do so. However, the college won’t be accepting new students, thereby pausing the program.
To help some students caught in a bind, Sierra College is allowing students to transfer to automotive technology programs at American River College, Yuba College or Cosumnes River College.
There are 130 students studying automotive technology at the combined four Sierra College campuses. Over the past few years, about 13 to 17 students graduated from the program each year, said Schulz.
Rebecca Bocchicchio, vice president of instruction, said automotive technology classes are only offered on the Rocklin campus, but because a Sierra College student is accepted at all four campuses, the decision affects Nevada County campus students, too.
She estimates five Nevada County campus students to be one year from completing the degree for a program that has eight part-time faculty members.
In 2016, the state began providing $246 million of annual funding for the Strong Workforce Program to bolster career technical education at community colleges.
But with the carrot comes the stick, and administrators said the automotive technology program was not meeting northern region standards set by the state.
“We have to demonstrate that there’s a labor market need, and that students graduating (can) earn a living wage,” said Bocchicchio.
High salaries to graduate and earn about $15 an hour in the automotive technician sector aren’t available, and there is too much supply, said Schulz and Bocchicchio.
Part-time automotive technology faculty members Jennifer Andronas and Don Moore disagree on the numbers.