In Sought-After Automotive Technology Program, Leadership Is Key
The Automotive Technology program at PNW BOCES runs like a fine-tuned car, thanks to Teacher Kevin Berge and Teaching Assistant Lorraine Petriello. The pair have been working together for 25 years, and their unique partnership creates a stellar learning environment for students. The duo is just one reason for the program’s success—the other is the fact that Automotive Technology is a field where there is an enormous surplus of jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of new auto technician positions will go unfilled. A 2017 New York Times article about the shortage states that as vehicles have grown more computerized and vocational programs have disappeared from high schools, the situation has become more urgent.
“Automotive technology has changed dramatically over the years,” Berge said. “Everything is computerized now, and you have to stay ahead of every bit of that technology.” A major incentive for students: Top-level technicians in the field can earn upwards of $100,000 a year, according to the Times.
The fact that Berge has worked at BOCES for 32 years, and Lorraine for 28, makes them seasoned professionals, but one of the main reasons they are so successful with students is because they share the same philosophy.
“A big part of why we work well together is because of mutual respect, both for each other and for all of our students,” Petriello said. “We respect the students and treat them as responsible adults.”
Students also know that the training this program provides will get them jobs.
Because the Automotive program is one of the most structured in Career and Technical Education, due to all the safety issues and technology involved, knowing the rules and the way the class is organized is important, according to Berge. “The technology used in today’s cars is so specific, that we are teaching something new every day. If you miss anything in this business, you can have a disaster, so we have to make sure our students are paying attention.”
It is not unusual for students who have graduated from the program to come back five, 10 or 20 years after graduation to share their success stories. Recently a 2000 graduate visited from Arizona. “He has this amazing job with Ford out there,” Berge said, “and he wanted to let me know that this program had everything to do with him getting that job.
While practical work in the shop is a big portion of the day, students also have to study textbook chapters each day. Petriello ensures that all textbook assignments are 100 percent accurate by painstakingly going over the class work the next day. “We want it to be 100 percent so we can be sure they can move on to the next topic,” said Petriello.
At the end of the two-year program students take the MLR Automotive Service Excellence test, which the majority of PNW BOCES students pass. This makes them much more marketable. “Our kids succeed in college and in business and have a clear advantage because we push them to be the best they can be,” Berge said.
At the end of the day it is this combination of structure and respect that make the Automotive Technology program at the Tech Center work. “We have students who really look forward to coming here,” said Berge. “Parents tell us that their children say it’s the best part of their day.”