STEM Under the Hood

by RaeAnne Marsh


Cars today have upward of 200 computer modules, and, adding to the complexity of repairing these vehicles, the technology used varies with the different manufacturers. The hybrid technology of Tesla and Nissan, for instance, uses different operating systems, different processes and different energy management systems. Noting the need for trained individuals who understand how the car functions as well as how to do the repair, Mike Romano, president of Universal Technical Institute’s 248,000-square-foot Avondale facility, says, “We’ve been dealing with STEM forever, and coupling it with problem-solving.” While advancements in technology have produced scanners that can zero in on a failed part, Romano points out it is also necessary to follow the functionality of the components.

The need for trained technicians is very high. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be 1.2 million jobs in automotive, diesel, collision, motorcycle and marine repair. “These are the primary areas we train for,” Romano shares, pointing out also the curriculum includes manufacturer-specific advanced training programs. More than 50 years old and headquartered in Scottsdale, UTI, he says, is “one of the biggest players in this sector,” with about 15,000 students in the process at any given time, but graduating 10,000 a year is “not coming close to the amount needed within the industry.” Having a partnership with more than 30 manufacturers as well as aftermarket dealerships “gives us a good idea of what the needs are for technicians and the type of training.” And, as technology is ever-changing, training must continue to be ongoing.

“Over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a low emphasis on these types of careers as real opportunities,” Romano observes, noting not only the number of job openings but also the potential to grow up through the ranks. “Organizations want management to understand what it’s like to work on the ground level, to understand how products move through the distribution systems, and the value of technicians’ time.”

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