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Automotive Trade and Technical Schools

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Trade and technical schools are private schools that specialize in career training. They are usually small, single-purpose schools that specialize in preparing a person to move right into the work world upon graduation. You won't find courses in the humanities or history in a trade school, but you will learn much about your chosen field within a minimum of time.

Since you need not take extraneous subjects, you save time because only classes in your trade are taught. There are no extracurricular activities like a football team, only important subjects relevant to your career. Although the tuition may range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, you will finish a lot sooner than if you choose to go to college.

You generally need a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) to enter, but some schools will waive these requirements if you have plenty of work experience. Schools approved by the Career College Association do not discriminate in their admission policies, and many minority students will find avenues open that may have been previously closed to them. Other accrediting agencies and your state education department, as well as organizations like the American Association of Community Colleges, also can help.

Usually the classes are small and friends are easily made. The small class size is helpful, because the instructor can devote more time and individual attention to each student.

Most of the schools also offer job placement assistance. Placement is an important part of their program because these schools are basically a private business. They strive for high success in placement. If they are good at getting jobs for their graduates, more students will be encouraged to enter, and the business thrives. Vocational schools work closely with potential employers, and over the years they have usually developed many good contacts who are anxious to have well-trained and qualified people working in their places of business.

Some schools provide other placement aids, such as resume writing and interviewing techniques that can help you land a job and even change jobs in the future. Check with the school for these services before you choose it.

How to Choose a School

The first step in choosing a trade or technical school is to write to a few and request their catalogs. There is a partial list of trade schools that offer auto-motive service training in Appendix D at the end of this book. Once you receive their catalogs, compare them for the courses you want and also compare them according to the following checklist:
  1. State licensing. Is the school licensed by your state's postsecondary licensing bureau? If there is no mention in the catalog, check with your state's department of education. Although a few states do not require licensing, most of them do.

  2. Accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education has guidelines that it follows in issuing an accrediting agency the right to accredit schools. The agency examines the school, and the school must meet the agency's standards for education quality, teaching ability, and administrative integrity. The school's accreditation is usually listed in the school's catalog, but it is a good idea to double-check by contacting the accrediting agency itself. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence also accredits schools.

  3. Courses. Check to see if the courses offered are up to date, well rounded, and of high quality. Find out who teaches them. Is the instructor someone with professional experience in automotive service? Find out how many and what kinds of courses are necessary for graduation and how long it will take. Also ask if they offer certificates, associate's degrees, or both.

  4. Equipment and facilities. Find out what kind of classrooms, buildings, and facilities the school offers. Are they modern? See that the equipment they use is up-to-date and is reflective of the kinds of equipment in use in actual repair shops and garages.

  5. Hands-on training. See if the school has a shop setup that duplicates those found in the real world. With a trade like automotive repair and service, it is vital that you get plenty of hands-on experience.

  6. Placement assistance. Does the school offer placement assistance to all the students? How long will it keep trying on your behalf to help you land a job? Check to see if it will help you after you graduate. Ask for a list of students that it has helped place and contact them. See if the graduates are satisfied with their jobs. Find out what kinds of jobs they have landed.

  7. Cost. The big question is how much is it going to cost? Get the total cost for everything, including tuition, books, tools, and lab fees. Ask yourself if you can realistically afford the school. Inquire as to whether the school offers tuition assistance or can help you find a part-time job to help you pay for your education. Ask about the school's refund policy.

Of course, the best way to find out about the school is to visit it in person. Visit with the staff and faculty. Ask to observe some of the classes in session. During breaks, talk with some of the other students and get their honest impressions of the school. Find out if they are happy. Check out the buildings and equipment. Make sure they are as the catalog described them. Again, ask for a list of recent graduates. Take the time and effort to contact some of them. Find out if they think the school helped them get their jobs.
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