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OHS grad loving Ford ASSET program - Odessa American: Odessa College

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OHS grad loving Ford ASSET program

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Posted: Monday, November 23, 2020 3:30 am

As a youngster, Elijah Barrera always was always working on cars. The 22-year-old Odessa High School graduate was able to do that because his father, now retired, owned a body shop.

“But I wanted to learn the mechanic side, so that’s why I’m doing this,” Barrera said.

Now Barrera is one of nine students in Odessa College’s Ford ASSET program where students learn how to become Ford vehicle technicians. Jennifer Myers, dean of the School of Business and Industry at OC, said students are selected for the program and they must be sponsored by a Ford dealership.

Students are mentored as they’re learning, but the expectations are high.

“They actually have to interview with the dealership, so they go in, and of course, our instructor (Timothy Roberts) who teaches the ASSET program helps facilitate setting up the interview. But really, it's all on the student. They go in; they have to dress appropriately. They do have to interview … so they actually have to be hired by the dealership because they're going to be expected … to be able to do the same things the technicians can do,” Myers said.

In Barrera’s case, he’s stationed at Sewell Ford at Parks Legado. Dealerships in Andrews and Midland also are participating.

Students must have a clean driving record, undergo a drug screening and a background check, Myers said.

Overall, the program runs for two years and courses have to be taken in a strict order.

“The students come to us for eight weeks. They take a couple of academic classes with us, so they learn they might be studying brakes. What's great about this program is that they're with us for eight weeks, learning skills to work on the vehicles but then they go to their coop, what we call a coop, and they actually work in the dealership with a mentor technician and get to apply the skills they learn in the classroom … in the dealership,” Myers said.

Students graduate with an associate in applied science degree, but they also do Ford-specific course work, which gives them Ford certification, she said.

Ford ASSET stands for Automotive Student Service Educational Training.

Barrera said he saw the new Sewell location at Parks Legado when he was growing up and knew he wanted to work there when he got older.

“I’m here now and I love it,” Barrera said.

Before going into the program Barrera said he was a flatbed truck driver.

“I had applied as an apprentice about a year and a half ago and then (Sewell recruiter) Hannah (Rozyyev) called me back in March or February. I was actually on the road. She told me about the ASSET program, so I thought that it would be a good opportunity to start here and work for Sewell Ford,” he said.

Barrera said he started Aug. 22 and just got through the first eight weeks. This is his fourth week in the coop. He’ll graduate in May 2022.

“I really just love being a part of this team and I think it’s the first place that I can actually say I like coming to work. I look forward to it,” Barrera said.

He also appreciates the respect Collin Sewell has in the area and how everyone knows him.

“… I just knew I wanted to be part of this team and this is where I wanted to be for my career,” Barrera said.

Barrera said he is usually with his mentor Jon Harn and doesn’t see much of his coworkers.

“… He’s a really good teacher. He works really hard and he shows me everything that I need to know and makes sure that I understand everything that I’m doing and how I’m doing it,” Barrera said of Harn. “He makes sure that I’m responsible with everything, that I just try to minimize mistakes and work efficiently. He’s a really good mentor to me. He’s shown me a lot. I’ve already learned much more than what I did before I got in the program just by being with him the first month that I was here before starting school.”

Rozyyev said she’s been able to compare the Ford ASSET program at OC with other programs because she recruits from many different technical schools and other community colleges.

“… I was very glad that we finally have something local, so instead of having to recruit from Houston, or Dallas, or New Mexico, I’m now able to say we found someone local that we like, that’s already here with our team and we can just send them to training,” she said. “It’s 10 minutes away instead of having to send them across the state or across the border. I think it’s going to be great as the years go on. We’re going to get more and more opportunities to train people because we do have a good amount of entry-level technicians that are interested. It’s just finding those guys that are local and committed to a career choice,” Rozyyev said.

Like Rozyyev, Barrera said he thinks the main benefit of the program is that it’s local.

“… Because honestly if it were somewhere else I don’t know if I’d be able to do it just because of how I had to take care of family and stuff like that, but it is here in … the Odessa-Midland area so we can probably get a lot of guys that are from this area instead of having to recruit,” from elsewhere, Barrera said.

He added that if anyone is interested in the field, he would recommend joining the Ford ASSET program.

Myers said there are five students at Sewell Ford and the remaining for are in Andrews and Midland.

“Mr. Sewell and the Sewell family have just been a great partner for us and they really want to give students the opportunity,” Myers said. “And they need more technicians. Everyone's cars are still breaking down, despite COVID so there is still a demand for technicians.”

Other automakers like Toyota and Honda have similar programs.

“… Our plan is to expand, obviously, but Ford because of the great support we've gotten from Mr. Sewell and his family and that dealership, Ford was kind of the no-brainer to start. It’s really going to be kind of the example that is set for other programs that follow. …,” Myers said.

There also is a generic automotive and diesel pathway.

“It just depends on what type of vehicles you want to work on. … Our diesel pathway teaches you how to work on the heavy trucks; buses; the large vehicles. Then your automotive pathway is your standard what you see everyone driving on the road …,” Myers said.

The Ford ASSET program has been in the works since mid-2017 because you have to go through a lot of work with Ford corporate and you have to get ASE accreditation, she said.

Sewell Auto Tech opened in January 2020 for students and the grand opening was in February.

Along with Roberts, who had been the instructor at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, N.M., there will be another who is working on his credentials, Myers said.

Rozyyev said Sewell is always open to meeting anyone who is interested in becoming a technician.

“We do have scholarships available for the program. It’s a very affordable, or sometimes free, option to become a technician. And you get hands on experience,” she said.

Myers added that something she would want parents to know is that it’s a great career “and you can make a lot of money.”

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