High Tech, High Demand: Training the Auto Technicians of Tomorrow, Today

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By Harold Santamaria, Automotive Technology Instructor, Truman College

It’s impossible to escape the excitement surrounding electric vehicles—and it’s no wonder why. These cars are energy-forward, they’re tech-forward, and they’re widely-recognized as the future of the industry.

But with most of the focus on the cars themselves, we also need to consider—who will work on them? As an instructor in Truman College’s Automotive Technology program, I get to work with the future of the industry, and I’m not talking about the cars. I’m talking about the people.

In light of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, let’s focus on them.

Excellent Study Body –> Excellent Auto Body

Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences—they don’t fit into any type of mold. We teach recent high school graduates, students who have been out of school for a handful of years, and mid-career changers. We have students with no experience using tools, those who have tinkered around on their own cars, and everything in between.

Harold Santamaria

Like the city of Chicago, our students are diverse, but they share a defining characteristic—they’re automotive enthusiasts. When they come into our classrooms, many share their life-long passion and stories about what inspires them to pursue this field, from family and childhood memories to action-packed car movies.

To meet their unique interests, we offer a variety of accredited programs, including basic certificates, advanced certificates, and associate degrees—certifications that will help students score the jobs of the future. But to secure the jobs of tomorrow, they need to learn about the cars of tomorrow, today. And they are.

It’s Electric

Currently, electrical is taught in every class across our program as it pertains to the system being studied. And looking towards the future, I’m in the process of developing course materials exclusively about electric vehicles. I like to say it’s electrical heaven for our students—and the future certainly looks bright.

Our students know these high-tech jobs are in high demand, and they’re ready to roll up their sleeves. When they complete the program, students are prepared for entry-level careers, such as lube-tech, semi-skilled, or apprentice-level positions in automotive technology service roles. They’re also prepared to work as service advisors, parts counter personnel, or in other customer service-related roles.

Additionally, one of the key benefits of our program is the Subaru University that’s on site at Truman. Our unique partnership with Subaru offers workshops at no cost to students so they can gain advanced skills and earn certificates that are recognized by Subaru dealerships across the Chicagoland area.

For students who want to continue their education, Truman offers a seamless transfer pathway to a bachelor’s degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the premier automotive technology school in the country.

There’s an educational option for every auto enthusiast here at Truman. So, in light of CTE Month, turn your headlights on the people who will work on the cars of the future. You may even consider becoming one of them.

Harold Santamaria, M.Ed., is an instructor in the Automotive Technology program at Harry S Truman College and has been teaching at Truman for 21 years. Santamaria is a product of Chicago Public Schools and was a first-generation college student. He earned an associate degree in Automotive Technology from Triton College, a bachelor’s degree in Career and Technical Education: Automotive Technology from DePaul University, and a master’s of education degree in Community College Teaching and Learning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Santamaria worked in the automotive industry straight out of high school and is an automotive enthusiast who loves exploring how the industry has changed or stayed the same over time.