Believing that tradesmen don’t make a lot of money, I thought my only opportunity to get a good job was to go to a four-year college. I attended college right out of high school. With no idea of what I wanted to do, I enrolled in a biology course and spent a lot of money on books. By the third day of class, I knew I didn’t want to do this. I switched to a major in film; but before you can take courses in the subject you want to study, you have to take history, English and math. I didn’t see much purpose in taking classes in subjects I wasn’t interested in learning.
I had difficulty retaining medical information and fell behind. Finally, I passed the test that qualified me to work as an EMT. But after I began working, I found my role was less about saving lives and more about transporting people to their medical appointments.
I was interested in cars while growing up. I regretted that I hadn’t taken the automotive program in high school. When college wasn’t working out, I didn’t immediately look for a school with an auto program. I thought I would need prior experience to attend an automotive training program.
Nick, said, “You should look at the automotive program at MTTI.” Because he was having a good experience at the school, I checked out MTTI’s website. Reading about the Automotive Service Technician program, I realized I didn’t need to have prior knowledge or experience to attend.
He asked me what experience I had. I told him: ‘Not much. Some brakes and basic maintenance tasks.” Jameson responded, “That’s great! That’s more than most people have.” My grandpa and I talked it over and he agreed to help me financially. We created a contract; I would pay him back each month—interest free. My girlfriend encouraged me to go to school. While I had doubts about myself, she was confident I could do it. My dad has always been interested in cars, so he was happy I was choosing to train for a career in the automotive trade.
Watching students working on cars that were up on lifts, and using torches, I felt a little intimidated. But it didn’t scare me away. I was excited to see what, in only a few months, I would be doing. Once I began school, I recognized that most of my classmates were also beginners. I quickly connected with everyone in the class.
I can’t imagine getting to their level of knowledge. The instructors really want you to understand what they are teaching. They all share what they know—they can talk about cars all day. They all started out like me, attending a trade school. They’ve inspired me to learn all I can, so that someday I will achieve their level of knowledge.
I had difficulty visualizing electrical systems. But I recognized that knowing about electrical systems would help me get a foot in the door of the automotive industry. We covered electrical basics extensively, and did a lot of hands-on work, including drawing electrical diagrams. I know a million times more than I did before school. Working in the industry now, I want to continue learning even more.
A low point during the program was having to miss days every now and then because I live with Crohn’s disease. An inflammatory condition of the digestive tract, Crohn’s can be painful. If left untreated, it could become serious, or even life-threating. I am being treated with infusions, which are biologics that target specific areas of the body, compared with corticosteroids, which affect the whole body. The stress of working as an EMT had increased my problems from Crohn’s.
Attending MTTI’s automotive program wasn’t easy, but when you are really interested in what you are learning, you want to read the chapters and learn the skills. It isn’t the same stress as learning or working at what you don’t like doing.
I own a 2002 BMW; they are well made luxury cars. BMWs have a lot of features and look good—I don’t think there is a single BMW that is less than super attractive.
BMW dealerships typically hire people who have prior knowledge and experience—especially because they will be working on expensive luxury cars. I was the first MTTI student to interview with, and be considered for hire by BMW. They didn’t know much about MTTI’s Automotive Service Technician program, so during my interview, I explained what I was learning at school.
I began by doing very basic tasks—moving customers’ cars, changing oil and doing tire changes. As a new hire, they didn’t expect me to know everything. I have been working alongside the foreman, solely on BMW cars—but each car is different. In the classroom at school, I saw parts for many makes and models of cars, but at work, the parts and their locations in the vehicles are specific to BMWs.
They are stepping me through the process, giving me more difficult tasks as we go. From oil changes, brake jobs and tire repairs, I’ve moved on to valve cover gaskets and oils pans. I’ve replaced suspension components. I am doing full MPIs (Multi Point Inspections) by myself. Recently, I’ve begun handling engine diagnosis orders.
At school you learn a lot of things you wouldn’t know, even if you worked on cars for yourself. The fundamentals I learned in the auto tech program make it easier to understand what technicians at BMW are explaining to me. For example, when the foreman I work with explained the specifics of how a BMW cooling system works, I could understand this new information because I had learned the basics at school.
I told him, ‘It’s a really good school. Anyone can attend without having any prior program-related knowledge or experience. In my perception, I had more hands-on training at MTTI than I would have had at other schools—some of which offered two-year degrees. And it’s really affordable.’
My wish came true. I am confident I will have a long career in the automotive industry. Most of BMW’s models are hybrid or fully electric. As the automotive industry goes electric, I’m not worried about being put out of my career. The new technology will just change some of the information and skills I need to know for maintenance and repair.
Especially considering how hard I struggled at college and in the EMT Program, I’m amazed by how well I’m doing now. MTTI was my first positive post-high school experience. I know I will be successful in this career because I am finally doing something I enjoy. I look forward to going to BMW school in New Hampshire. Once I go there, I will slowly transition to flat rate pay, which will give me the opportunity to earn a lot more money. Automotive technology is a profession for which you need to continually build upon your basic knowledge. I expect to keep learning.
Spotlight: Ben working in MTTI’s automotive shop. This photo was featured on a billlboard for MTTI’s automotive program
Left: Ben in MTTI’s automotive shop
Bottom: Ben with his classmates and Instructor, Jameson Infantino