Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology instructor Miguel Zoleta is making sure his program’s students stay plugged in to advancements in the automotive industry.
“Right now, we’re seeing that a lot out of industry is electrical vehicles, and electrical vehicles are coming out in every dealership,” he said. “Every company is trying to come out with at least one line of an electrical vehicle.”
The bells and whistles that come standard on electrical vehicles and hybrids represent something new. Automotive professionals must master these in order to diagnose and maintain vehicles.
That is why Zoleta encourages students interested in Automotive Technology to obtain their certificate 2. For an extra semester, students can get four additional courses under their belts, including an electrical course.
“(They should) take advantage of that extra electrical course, which is going to be very beneficial for them when they go out to work in the field,” he said.
Training the Future
TSTC’s campus in Harlingen offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology. It also offers certificates in both Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair, and Automotive Technician.
Zoleta ensures that his students stay abreast of the new technologies included in vehicles these days. He includes industry-standard equipment, such as tire-changer and tire-balancing machines like the ones that they would work with at any dealership. Students in the program can expect to gain hands-on experience on a variety of different vehicle makes and models for the broadest education possible.
Last semester, the program purchased a new 2021 Honda Insight hybrid vehicle for training. Zoleta anticipated that his students would use it in their courses many times, adding valuable experience in hybrid steering suspension, electrical, brakes and more.
“We are focusing more on the electrical vehicles,” he said. “We’re still on the hybrid, but we’re moving toward fully electrical vehicles.”
Zoleta encourages prospective students interested in the program to reach out and schedule a tour of the shop. He can answer any questions they may have.
Applying Skills To the Workforce
Many of Zoleta’s students go on to work at local dealerships, specializing in specific types of cars. A few years ago, he saw many of his graduates go on to work in the diesel industry, some of them relocating for their work.
In Texas, automotive service technicians and mechanics can earn an average annual salary of $45,520, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The projected growth for the position in the state is 7 percent, according to onetonline.org.
Students who are most successful during and after the program are those who take the initiative and go above and beyond when responding to requests.
“Some of the dealerships look for students who want to complete the work but also want to complete training to move to a higher rank within the dealership,” Zoleta said, highlighting the opportunity for career growth in the industry.
Nontraditional students looking to tune up and detail their skills can benefit from enrolling in the Automotive Technology program at TSTC. Zoleta says even seasoned mechanics have the opportunity to learn and grow their knowledge.
“It’s not really being a mechanic anymore — it’s being a technician,” he said. “When we get the nontraditional students, they say to themselves, ‘I know how to do it, but I don’t know how it works.’ We cover everything.”