Cleveland automotive students forced to keep up with changing technology

Ohio Technical School in Cleveland is training the next generation of automotive mechanics and...
Ohio Technical School in Cleveland is training the next generation of automotive mechanics and technicians.(WOIO)
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 10:12 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Vehicles today are packed with more technology than ever.

It means cars, trucks and SUVs are smarter and last longer.

Trade schools can’t miss a beat and are teaching students for the jobs of today and the future.

Bethany Speicher and Samuel Baires are students at Ohio Technical College in Cleveland. The private, family-owned schools has deep roots in Northeast Ohio. They recruit students from several nearby states. Currently, they have about 500 students enrolled and offer a variety of specialty programs.

Speicher grew up in a small village in Stark County. Baires is from Virginia. They’re putting their long-held curiosity about cars to work. Soon, they’ll have a degree from OTC.

“I grew up in a farm town. So you had anything from semis and tractors... to golf carts,” Speicher said. “From a young age, I grew up in the garage with my brothers and dad. It was always fun to me, I think of it (auto work) as a big puddle... figuring out how the pieces go together.”

Baires said he’s always enjoyed figuring things out.

“I’ve always liked tearing things apart. I love seeing how things work. I love figuring it out and seeing that car fixed,” Baires said.

Advances in engine technology and parts have brought major changes to the automotive industry over the decades.

Technological changes are happening at a rapid pace.

Today’s vehicles have more semiconductor chips in them that control everything from infotainment systems to fuel management and other safety features.

It’s changed what and how schools like Ohio Technical College teach the next generation of workers.

“Nowadays, you’re going to a dealership. You’re going to an aftermarket shop and send it to a technician- a guy who can diagnose your car, plug in the scan tool a computer and figure out from codes figure out what computer is not communicating,” Baires said. “What sensor isn’t communicating, right?”

Baires said being able to diagnose problems correctly is non-negotiable.

Theory courses and learning how to do jobs where individuals get their hands dirty are still essential.

“You still have a brake system. You still have your HVAC system. You still have four tires,” Baires said. “When we come here (OTC) we learn the basics and then we go out and apply that into our jobs.”

Steve McBride is one of the instructors at Ohio Technical College. He stresses to his students that their learning is never finished.

“It’s becoming an industry (where) it’s more about getting paid for what you know rather than what you can do,” McBride said. “And the people that get paid for what (they) know, are the ones that are the top tier. Your top mechanics or technicians are doing the diagnosis. And then entry level people are changing the parts and working their way up to those (top) levels.”

The U.S. Labor Department reports the median pay for automotive service technicians and mechanics is a little more than $44,000.

But with demand high for these types of jobs students can make much more, Some OTC students are starting out at $50,000 or more.

The expanding electric and hybrid vehicle market in the U.S. is only opening more opportunities for learning and careers.

“I’m into high-performance,” Speicher said. “I would like to work for racetrack down the road.”

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