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Kalamazoo Valley’s Auto Technology Program Prepares Area Mechanics for Revved-Up Careers

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Photo caption: Brian Murray, an automotive instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, said repair shops and car dealers often contact the college for employees.

 

Kalamazoo Valley Community College has been training the area’s automotive professionals since the college first opened in 1966. “We’re preparing students to be auto technicians, parts people, service writers, automotive engineers, truckers, small engine repairers. There’s a wide variety of roles that our students take on. They could be working on anything that runs with an engine,” said Automotive Instructor Brian Murray.

Murray explained that area car dealers and repair shops often contact Kalamazoo Valley when they’re looking for new employees.

“They’re desperate for people right now,” Murray said. He noted that many area automotive employers offer reimbursement for tuition and tools. “As far as employment, our students are usually working in the field by the end of the first semester.”

He encourages students to seek auto-related jobs while they finish their studies to reinforce what they’re learning in the auto lab with hands-on, paid experience. “A lot of what we’re doing is giving a good, hands-on, guided experience,” Murray said. “When students have an understanding of what has to happen, we’ve prepared them for success both here and in the field.”

Hamilton High School graduate Noah Bosma was accepted at Northern Michigan University, but opted for Valley. “Due to the location and price, I decided to start at Kalamazoo Valley. I liked it enough that I decided to stay,” he said. He graduated in 2008 with a general automotive service technician associate degree and nine certifications, including engine repair, brakes, manual drive transmission, engine performance and more. He works as a mechanic for Hope College.

“I maintain all kinds of grounds maintenance equipment – everything without a license plate,” he said. “Every day I really do use the training I received at Kalamazoo Valley. The classes were good and the labs were even better.”

Not only are local employers eager to recruit Kalamazoo Valley graduates like Bosma, but they’re also generous with donations of vehicles that are equipped with the latest technology. Subaru and Maple Hill Auto recently donated a 2021 Subaru Impreza to the program.

Jim VandenBerg, owner and general manager of Maple Hill Auto Group, said his company has been partnering with the college’s automotive technology program for the past 10 to 15 years. “We’ve kind of adopted Kalamazoo Valley as the regional training center,” he said. He said he’s committed to helping to ensure that tomorrow’s auto technicians are learning to fix cars equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

The college offers one of the area’s only automotive programs and was just authorized as an approved testing site for the Michigan Mechanic Certification Testing program, allowing students to complete a state-wide recognized certification test in-house.

Students can attain a total of 11 automotive certificates of achievement and two associate automotive associate degrees – automotive drivability systems and automotive undercar systems. The certificates of achievement are stackable and can lead to the completion of an associate degree.

There are two auto shops at the Texas Township Campus – one focused on heavy line repairs like steering, brakes, suspension and engine work. The other shop is for diagnostics and the rebuilding of engines and transmissions.

“It’s a rewarding career and the technology is always changing,” Murray said. “We’re here to make sure our students are up-to-date and ready to work.”

Established in 1966, Kalamazoo Valley Community College offers certificate programs in more than 50 areas of study and associate degrees in 60 others. These include business, healthcare, human and public service, and technical occupations, culinary arts and brewing training. It has four Kalamazoo, Mich., locations, including the Texas Township Campus, the Groves Campus, the Arcadia Commons Campus and the Bronson Healthy Living Campus. Classes are available during the day, evening, online and weekends. For more, visit kvcc.edu.

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