The Future Technician is a True Multi-Talent
June 25, 2020—Ben Cruz, director at Macomb Community College's Center for Advanced Automotive Technology, says that automotive education programs are becoming quickly adaptive to industry trends. Those changes, as Cruz discussed in Monday's story, are coming more quickly than previous generations.
That's going to have big implications for repair shops and the institutions that teach their technicians.
“In the past, you used to have the mom-and-pop, behind-the-yard garage that they could take apart a vehicle and put it back together and it was fine," Cruz says. "You can't do that anymore. It’s not possible anymore, because things are so different. So many different things play into the system where you have to have knowledge of diagnostics. Knowledge of computer systems and knowledge of repair systems.”
Cruz says that Macomb Community College has been proactive in consulting with OEs to anticipate design changes and update curricula to meet those needs. And that's becoming a continual effort.
The auto courses of today don't look like those of decades past. Cruz says he's working to revamp a vehicle engineering technician course. Someone who completes it could go on to become an assistant in the engineering field or head to an auto shop to do advanced ADAS and electronics work.
“And the course looks a little different from your typical automotive type course, because this program has courses in connected automated intelligent vehicles," he says. "In addition to the regular automotive electronic classes, they will have either electronic technology classes that include digital electronics, microprocessors and that kind of stuff.”
Students in the automotive field at Macomb can get into a multitude of tech courses. Programming, vehicle experimental testing, automotive cybersecurity and Embedded C (computer programming language) debugging are all possibilities, Cruz says.
“If you take a look at all the ADAS systems, their base programming is all embedded and it happens to be C++, Embedded C,” he says.
Consider how much troubleshooting is going to be done in the digital space for tomorrow's vehicles. Repair shops will need to retain mechanical acumen and gain a lot in the computer programming space. That's a lot of work for shops to adopt, as well as those education programs that are staying on top of industry changes.
"Technicians used to be mechanics taking apart mechanical parts," Cruz says. "But that’s no longer true anymore, because you have to know a little bit about computer science. You have to know a lot about electronics. You have to know a little about cybersecurity. A little bit about all kinds of things that you didn’t need to have to know, but you do now.”