College automotive program wraps up first year

GRINNELL – Car dealerships in the Grinnell area were having problems with turnover with their repair staff. The businesses would hire repair staff from college programs in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids only to see them move back there once they got a year or two of experience in Grinnell.

As a way to respond to this issue, the Iowa Valley Community College District Grinnell campus started a program of its own in a partnership with Wes Finch Auto Plaza.

The program is automotive repair technology, and students train both on campus and at Wes Finch during the nights and weekends.

“The idea for this is to grow our own,” said MaryAnne Nickle, dean of Iowa Valley Grinnell.

The college uses its own training vehicles at Wes Finch, where the dealership has allowed for its mechanics’ bays to be used by the students. They also have a former and current mechanic as instructors in the program.

Students can choose a one-year program or a two-year program to get their associates in applied science.

Nickle said the future goal is to provide students with the ability to be ASE certified, which would make the program even more attractive.

“The dealerships like to hire ASEs so they can send them to their own proprietary training,” Nickle said.

Auto repair remains a field with a solid job market, especially as many in the field are hitting retirement age.

Another unique program at Iowa Valley Grinnell is set to launch this fall – the gunsmithing offering. This spawned from the idea of Brownells, a gun manufacturer in nearby Montezuma.

“Iowa is a big hunting and fishing state and we are not producing enough gunsmiths to meet the demand,” Nickle said. “Brownells knows the needs for this industry.”

Much like the automotive repair, gunsmithing is in response to the training needs of the area.

“We are just looking at what our community needs,” Nickle said.