By Colin MacDougall
High school and college students alike gathered into the Morris Lawrence building’s Towsley auditorium, to listen to WCC alumni, staff and industry developers about growing demand for careers in the automotive and transportation industries.
“This year the focus is the Advanced Transportation Center… We thought it would be appropriate to look at these careers,” said Brandon Tucker, dean of advanced transportation and public service careers.
The ATC is a concept that combines information technology with programing that goes into the newly emerging vehicles. Students will need these types of skills to repair and upgrade these vehicles.
The ATC will also specialize in intelligent transportation systems, advanced automotive service and repair, and advanced lightweight materials manufacturing. The ATC at WCC offers programs with advanced certificates and associate degrees in advanced manufacturing, applied data science, auto-body repair, auto service technology, motorcycle service technology, and welding and fabrication, among others.
The event focused on different career fields, in different industries – including a panel discussion, lunch, and a tour of the facilities. WCC takes into account high demand careers that professionals are entering.
“It’s a great opportunity to introduce high school students, as well as college students, to this industry, and tell them about the future of what type of skill set and training that they need to be successful in that field,” said David Wildfong of Career Services.
While the event targeted high school students, it also reached out to women in advanced transportation. Kristin Dzicek, the director of the Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research, was a keynote speaker.
A panel discussion led by Brandon Tucker included WCC students such as Amy Voss, a 25-year-old motorcycle service and technology major; Ashley McNamara, a 25-year-old auto-body major; and WCC Alumna April Eby, a master certified motorcycle technician, formerly in the motorcycle program.
McNamara first came to WCC to study painting, in hopes of transferring to a university or art school. She was first introduced to the auto-body repair at Welcome Day where she encountered what she called, “this green monstrosity” or the Zombie Rescue Unit Vehicle.
“I always wanted to learn how to custom paint but I’d never be able and I’d never been into cars or around cars,” said McNamara. Soon after McNamara switched her program and fell in love with auto body work.
Al Lecz, the director of the ATC at WCC, was among other industry leaders at the event. Prior to working at WCC, Lecz, worked in the industry at Ford Motor Company for 35 years before retiring. He explained that the automobile companies are becoming more of “mobility companies,” rather than the old car and truck manufacturers.
He explained this paradigm shift is occurring because how technology has become so embedded into our lives, and things like Google cars, autonomous vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells are going to comprise the future.
“The Advanced Transportation center really is around the vision that the automotive and the transportation industry are changing,” said Lecz
Many of the Advanced Transportation Center’s facilities are currently under major renovations right now. The state of Michigan awarded WCC a 4.4 million dollar step grant to invest in these types of programs.
Renovations are currently underway in the OE building, Including a reconfiguration of space to accommodate the auto body repair, welding and advanced manufacturing department. Installing of the new equipment will continue through the Spring/Summer Semester.
“We have over 4 million dollars’ worth of new equipment that will be installed and ready to go for students by Fall 2016,” Tucker said.
“Passion goes a long way. If you don’t enjoy it now, switch. If you don’t like waking up to go to work, then it’s time to work on other options, following your dreams is always going to lead you to the place you are meant to be,” Eby said at the end of the panel discussion.