Howard W. Ferris is the dean of transportation and energy at Massachusetts Bay Community College. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the automotive repair industry and oversees all the auto tech courses at MassBay, one of the leading programs in the country.
What would you look for in a training program?
I would want to see a direct relationship with the industry; there are ... at least 50 nationwide. At MassBay, we have partnerships with Toyota, BMW, Chrysler and GM. When schools have these partnerships, they offer exposure to the latest and greatest technology. I would also want to see a co-op component. No matter how great your training environment is, it has to be contrived on some level or it's not the actual conditions.
What's the difference between a community college technician program and a private technical school?
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Community college programs are generally subsidized by the taxpayers, so it can be more affordable. We also offer an associate's degree, which might be good if you think you might want to do something different down the road.
Yours is a two-year program, and technical school programs are usually six months to a year.
Yes. They concentrate on the core automotive courses. We have an academic core that needs to be fulfilled.
Did the collapse of the domestic automotive industry affect your program?
Yes. But we've come back just as fast. People really want to work on a domestic product. As long as the companies are viable -- which they are -- it's not a problem.
The letters to look for in a training program …
NATEF: The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation is a non-profit that evaluates automotive training courses. Schools with NATEF certification are considered legitimate programs in the industry.
ASE: Fewer than half of all automotive mechanics nationwide are Automotive Service Excellence-certified in at least one area of expertise. ASE certification is a great way to get a leg up in the industry, and a school that offers a clear path toward this credential is invaluable.