By Mark Phillips
In late September, I saw the meaning of “hit the ground running” firsthand.
Nestled in the beautiful hills of the Appalachian Mountains in New York State is Alfred State College’s Wellsville campus. I’d never been to Alfred State before I was invited to attend a ride and drive event there, sponsored by Tenneco.
What I saw made me grin from ear to ear.
Alfred State’s Wellsville campus is probably unlike most any college campus out there. An entrepreneurial spirit flows throughout the place. The students at Alfred State aren’t getting theory or concepts that sound great in classrooms, but aren’t terribly relevant in real life. Students are literally getting their hands dirty, learning and polishing themselves into gems who will be in high demand in the work force. Dr. John M. Anderson, president of Alfred State, was kind enough to take me on a tour.
Several aspects about this school are impressive. For example, in the building construction program, students build beautiful homes some high-end homes with energy-saving features. Jerry Ives, an assistant parts technology professor, recently moved to Wellsville. Guess what he bought? A new home built by Alfred State students. If that’s not real-world experience for students, I don’t know what is.
For the automotive program, there are five buildings featuring more than 100 service bays and 36 lifts over 80,000 square feet of facilities. During my visit, service bays were orderly, spotless and professional. Students in the automotive program engage in 7.5 hours per week of lecture time, and get 22 hours a week lab time. There typically are around 260 students enrolled in the automotive programs at any time, which are taught by 16 faculty.
In a further sign of Alfred State’s commitment to the automotive industry, the school recently announced plans for the Auto Plus Parts Technology Facility, with support from Uni-Select. The facility would be a central point for parts purchases made by automotive technology students. The state-of-the-art 5,400-square-foot building, expected to cost $750,000, will feature a functioning Uni-Select store and the same computer system as the ones used by Uni-Select professionals. The facility also will be available for training to Uni-Select team members. The facility is planned because Alfred State and industry officials are responding to the obvious need for highly skilled parts and repair professionals.
And beginning this fall, the automotive parts technology curriculum, which was started in fall 2007, is now being offered online in partnership with ASC Industries and Uni-Select. The program is a two-year AAS (associate in applied science). The new online offerings will provide the ability for Alfred State College to offer the program nationwide.
“There is a great demand from the industry for entry-level counter people with the technical skills to advance as managers,” said Cyril “Skip” Merrick, associate professor and chair, Automotive Trades Department. “Moving the new automotive parts technology program to an online format will allow us to greatly expand the ability to develop in students the necessary skills to succeed in the broad area of automotive parts store operation.”
“Hit the ground running,” incidentally, happens to be Alfred State’s marketing slogan. And a very good one it is.