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Sat, Jan. 16

Coconino Community College begins automotive program this spring

Coconino Community College and Findlay Honda of Flagstaff have partnered to create an automotive tech program to meet the demand for skilled technicians in the area. Involved in making the program a reality are (left to right): Ken Myers, CCC faculty; Mimi Vessey, parts and service director for Findlay Honda;  Jacob Lundie, general manager for Findlay Honda; and Lisa Blank, dean of Career and Technical Education at CCC. (Photo/Larry Hendricks)

Coconino Community College and Findlay Honda of Flagstaff have partnered to create an automotive tech program to meet the demand for skilled technicians in the area. Involved in making the program a reality are (left to right): Ken Myers, CCC faculty; Mimi Vessey, parts and service director for Findlay Honda; Jacob Lundie, general manager for Findlay Honda; and Lisa Blank, dean of Career and Technical Education at CCC. (Photo/Larry Hendricks)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The conversation is the same among auto dealerships locally and across the country: Where do we find trained technicians?

“There’s a ridiculous shortage of technicians,” said Mimi Vessey, parts and service director for Findlay Honda of Flagstaff.

Jacob Lundie, general manager for Findlay Honda, said the company has found it difficult to find qualified technicians.

In order to meet a gap in trained automotive technicians locally and throughout the nation, Coconino Community College (CCC) has partnered with Findlay Honda of Flagstaff to create an Automotive Technician program, scheduled to begin spring semester.

College President Colleen Smith has worked to get this program started since she arrived at CCC.

“I am thrilled that CCC is finding a way to make this happen,” She said. “When I first arrived at the college, I started getting calls asking for an automotive program, and I have pushed our team on this even when the budget constraints made it seem impossible. After many meetings and discussions, I am excited that this is finally becoming a reality.”

Smith added that she is proud of what the team at CCC and the staff at Findlay Honda have accomplished to support the creation of the program.

“The partnership with Findlay Honda of Flagstaff is one we are particularly excited about,” said Lisa Blank, dean of Career and Technical Education at CCC. “As vehicles get more technologically advanced, educating automotive technicians gets more challenging, especially staying current with equipment needed.”

Blank added that in the partnership with Findlay Honda, students benefit by getting to use the latest diagnostic technologies and garnering valuable hands-on professional training that can be immediately applied through opportunities to work in the industry. The partnership also helps meet the urgent industry and community need for service technicians.

Ken Myers, CTE faculty heading up the program for the college, said that the hiring for an instructor for the program is underway. A candidate will be selected in December to prepare for the first cohort of students to begin their studies when class resumes Jan. 11. The need for trained technicians is prompting the quick turnaround.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re not getting enough young people in to replace people retiring from the industry,” Myers said, adding that people in northern Arizona who want to train to become automotive technicians have to leave the area for the training, and they often don’t return.

“Our goal is if we can train them locally, we can keep them locally," she said.

Myers said the first cohort of students will be limited to 12 in order to provide a safe learning environment, following CCC safety protocols, for the students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The classroom will be housed at the Findlay Honda facility on North Test Drive in East Flagstaff.

Vessey said that two bays, complete with all the equipment will be made available to CCC and the students.

“We’re so excited about this program,” Vessey said. “This is a chance for us to give back a small portion of what the community has given us.”

She added that the community has been needing an automotive technician program, where students have access to the latest technology offered by the automotive mechanical industry.

“This program allows us to tap into the upcoming talent and resources that we would normally lose to bigger metro areas,” Vessey said. “We would lose that talent that makes Flagstaff such a great place. By having this opportunity, for all parties involved, we can now offer local, hands-on, professional, state-of-the-art training and allows the next generation of talent to fully understand the ins and outs of a dealership automotive operation.”

Lundie added that Robby Findlay, the owner, was adamant about getting the program off the ground — even with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“Training the students locally, we would hope they continue into a career that would pay a good living wage, so they can afford to live in Flagstaff,” Lundie said. “We’re excited to have it right here at the dealership.”

Lundie added the decision to partner with CCC was easy.

“We have the facility, and we need more skilled technicians in our local community,” Lundie said. “We are happy to fill the gap with the limited funding to get this program going.”

In addition to the Findlay Honda support, the program has also received $10,000 in funding from a grant from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The funds will allow CCC to purchase the tools required for the students.

The program’s first semester will begin with certification as Level 1 technicians, and all credits can be applied to any future plans for an associate degree. Plans are in the works for other certifications including Level 2 and above.

Classes will be held Tuesday nights, 6-9:30 p.m. More information about the Automotive Technician program is available by contacting Myers at Kenneth.myers@coconino.edu. More information about Coconino Community College is available from the college at https://www.coconino.edu/

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