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UTI opening Bloomfield campus to train auto techs

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Push to train more automotive technicians comes amid a nationwide shortage of skilled techs.
Push to train more automotive technicians comes amid a nationwide shortage of skilled techs. - ()

With automotive technicians retiring in great numbers resulting in a nationwide shortage, Universal Technical Institute said it plans to open a new campus in Bloomfield with classes beginning in the fall.

UTI is a for-profit provider of technical training for jobs as automotive, diesel, motorcycle and marine technicians. Auto techs are trained in computerized and technical components of cars, generally in addition to mechanical systems.

“We partner with a lot of manufacturers – automotive and diesel manufacturers, motorcycle and marine manufacturers across the country,” UTI Campus President Steve McElfresh said. “There was a huge need in the New Jersey and New York metro area. This campus makes it easy access to public transportation and more affordable to the students, because they don’t have to leave home. They can live in the metro area, come to school and still work the job they have now while they go to school.”

The Bloomfield campus marks UTI’s first campus in New Jersey and 13th overall.  About 175 New Jersey and New York employers have hired UTI graduates from its Pennsylvania campus.

“As a student, you could not be getting into this industry at a better time,” McElfresh said. “I already have employers showing up at our doors now.”

Enrollment recently opened for the Bloomfield campus’ first classes.

“You need to be a diagnostician in order to figure out what is going on with [today’s] vehicles,” McElfresh said. “It’s very computer-based so it folds in nicely with a lot of students of today who are very interested in the technology. When they make that connection that there is so much technology involved, it interests even a lot of high school students.”

“It’s very computer-based, so it folds in nicely with a lot of students of today.”

Steve McElfresh, UTI Campus President

UTI will offer hands-on, high-tech training to about 800 students in Bloomfield. Students can complete core automotive and diesel technology programs and be ready to work in 11 to 18 months.

“When our students leave here, they know what to expect in the industry,” McElfresh said. “Our partners are very much involved with what we do with our curriculum and how we teach. They come in here at minimum twice a year formally – and informally on a regularly basis. And they are quick to give us feedback. They are not easy customers and that’s a good thing.”

The May 2017 median annual wage for auto techs and mechanics was $39,550, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

Danielle Dilks, a Penske Truck Leasing area recruiter in metro New York City, recruits in New Jersey. She said the company hires students and recent graduates as customer service reps and entry-level diesel tech workers.

“We’ve also found success with hiring UTI graduates in higher level technician roles,” Dilks said. “We have found that UTI graduates are prepared to join the workforce and utilize their quality education. They understand how to handle themselves in a professional environment and how to speak with customers.”

Penske works with UTI campuses across the U.S.

“It is a challenge for Penske to keep up with the demand of our customers, while handling the transition of generations entering and departing the workforce,” Dilks said. 

She added: “Vehicle complexity is increasing, and we need today’s tech-savvy students to repair these vehicles and to keep them running in peak condition. Because of our scale and size, Penske has the latest and most innovative technologies in our facilities. … Our company places a strong emphasis on retention. Some of our company officers have started as technicians.”

UTI also partners with BMW, Cummins, Ford, Freightliner, Mercedes-Benz, NASCAR, Peterbilt, Porsche and Volvo. The partners invest in UTI campus facilities, outfit training labs with the most current vehicles, technology and tools, and guide educational programs, so students graduate with the knowledge and skills employers want.

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David Hutter

David Hutter


David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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