Automotive alumni find success after graduation


As students return to classes this week, Cochise College’s Automotive Technology Faculty James Krause and Ron Bosley are excited to teach the next generation of future auto technicians. The program has found great success in being a resource for local employers as students graduate and seek work in the automotive industry. Last month, the department invited a group of automotive alumni back to the autoplex for a luncheon in their honor. These students have found a home in the local automotive industry of Cochise County, helping to fill the demand for new technicians needed to fix today’s automobiles doing everything from automotive repair, auto detail and parts sales.

The mission of the automotive program is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to enter the ever-changing world of automotive repair. This approach has been successful as many of the local employers shared the same sentiment.

Sierra Toyota currently employs one former Cochise student.

“Employees who have taken the program at Cochise come in ready to work,” said Sierra Toyota Service Director David Jones. “All we have to do is train them on the specifics for Toyota. We don’t have to do a lot of additional teaching. It is all just hands-on training.”

Desert Automotive Service Manager Gary Kite expects there to be a learning curve for any new employees but agrees the training provided by Cochise is a good foundation that includes basic skills. Desert Automotive employs a current student, Scott Lawry and a former student Daniel Hjelmeland.

Daniel Hjelmeland

Automotive alumni Daniel Hjelmeland

Hejelmeland says his goal is to be a shop foreman. He started working in the auto industry right out of high school and has been with Desert Automotive for five years. He started out as a technician and took advantage of opportunities the smaller shop provided him. “My advice to students or others wanting to work in automotive is to stay curious and ask a lot of questions,” Hjelmeland said. “In a repair shop you get hands-on experience. Don’t be afraid to get in there and touch things,“ advised Hjelmeland.”

At Cochise, students learn safety protocol and the theoretical background of automotive in addition to the hands-on experience. Local businesses hiring these students prove that the Cochise College Automotive Technology Program is living up to expectations to help with the demand for new technicians entering the field.

“The integrity and reputation of my shop are important to me,” said Ann Mari Aristigue of Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair. “I require schooling from my technicians to ensure I am providing my customers with the best service possible. If people inquire about a job with us and they don’t have any prior schooling, I recommend they enroll in the program at Cochise and then come back and see me.”

Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair is a family business for the Aristigues. Danny and Christian Aristigue wanted to stay in the family business. Even though their parents have been in the auto industry for 20 years, they were encouraged to attend schooling. “Cochise prepared us for the basic knowledge and understanding of automotive and included the safety protocols to follow. Once we completed the program we were prepared for an apprenticeship position and could perform entry-level services such as oil changes and tires,” remarked the brothers.

 

Boys working on car

Danny (current student) & Christian (alumni) Aristigue

The Cochise College Automotive Technology Program continues to show positive growth. In order to continue providing qualified candidates to the automotive workforce, it is adding a light-duty diesel class to its degree plan for the 2018-2019 school year. It has continued to keep up with the latest technology in vehicle diagnosis by adding two new diagnostic scan tools and a computerized on-car brake lathe.

“We really have a good thing going here,” Krause said, “and it has all been possible thanks to having students willing to learn a trade, great staff and support from the college administration. We teach the students in a real-world environment and a great location, thanks to a generous partnership with Sean Lawley. We can’t make master technicians in the short time that we have them here, but we can create a solid foundation for them to enter the field. With the support of our local industry and good mentorship, students can become very successful.”

For more information on the college’s Automotive Technology Program, which offers day and evening classes and is open to students of all ages, visit cochise.edu/automotive, follow Cochise College Automotive Technology on Facebook, or contact faculty members James Krause at 520-224-5129 or krausej@cochise.edu, or Ron Bosley at 520-335-1449 or bosleyr@cochise.edu.