There’s a demonstrable shortage of automobile technicians in New Jersey, and well-known luxury auto dealership chain Ray Catena Motor Car Corporation has formally joined hands with Brookdale Community College to help ensure a stream of highly trained workers into its facilities.
A memo of understanding between the two entities means that following students’ first academic year at Brookdale (beginning with those who are matriculated as of fall 2019), some students will attain auto-tech internships at Ray Catena, where they will be exposed to leading-edge repair techniques and technologies.
When students eventually graduate from Brookdale with associate degrees in automotive technology, they can be offered full-time Ray Catena employment. They may also become eligible for tuition and tool reimbursement totaling almost $16,000, as well as employment bonuses of up to $12,000.
The college and dealership chain have long since had a symbiotic relationship which not only has facilitated auto-tech students’ employment at Ray Catena, but has also allowed the college to incorporate leading-edge automobile repair knowledge into its curriculum (Ray Catena is part of the college’s advisory board).
Ray Catena’s Service Director Christopher Gioffre says, “We decided we needed to do something a little bit more solid, so we went back to the [college’s auto program that] we’ve always had great success with, and [the memo of understanding] was a quick ‘no-brainer.’”
“The college’s mission is to serve the community and address its workforce needs, and we [simultaneously] concentrate on developing educational pathways that lead to personal and economic success,” Brookdale Community College President Dr. David Stout tells NEW JERSEY BUSINESS.
Stout meanwhile cites more than three decades of parents pushing their college-aged children towards bachelor’s degrees, regardless of children’s aptitudes or desires – with the assumption that the degrees will boost the students’ economic mobility.
He says, “What we find is that is absolutely not true, and there are very good paying jobs that require a certification, a license or an associate degree.”
He adds that students’ needs are also considered within vocationally-oriented programs, explaining, “[Students] are telling us that they don’t want to be sitting in rows and listening to lectures. They really want to use their hands and skills they have developed in a good-paying profession.”
Ray Catena’s Gioffre underscores his company’s role in advising the college’s curriculum, and also says that the college’s academic nature – replete with reading and writing – helps students become “forward thinking.”
He explains, “[Students] need hands-on skills, for sure, but [automotive] technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that we need to have young men and women who can think on their feet, are good with computers and can ‘think outside the box.’
“There are a lot more caveats to fixing automobiles than there were [when compared to] 20 or even 10 years ago,” he adds.
Brookdale’s president Stout echoes these sentiments, saying, “One of the great things about earning an associate degree is that students are required to earn a general education, which helps them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The benefit of that is they can adapt to change.
“Since technology is progressing so rapidly, students should be more prepared to pivot with the changes as they occur in the field,” he concludes.
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