UTI preps students for auto tech careers
Since career paths lead in many directions, one possibility to consider after high school is to study at the Universal Technical Institute in Lisle.
"Universal Technical Institute is the leading provider of postsecondary education for students seeking careers in the automotive, diesel, industrial, collision repair, motorcycle and marine industries," campus President Julie Mueller said.
With 12 institute campuses strategically located across the country, UTI offers hands-on technical learning experiences. Students, both men and women, able and disabled, enter with a variety of skills ranging from those who have never held a wrench before to those who have a lifelong fascination for vehicles.
There are beginning students, those updating skills and adults changing careers.
The Lisle campus opened in 2013 and has a capacity of 2,000 students with a ratio of 20 to 30 students per instructor. The school originally was located in Glendale Heights within six buildings. The move to Lisle -- and to its own single, 187,000-square-foot, two-story building along Warrenville Road, was a successful decision.
The building, 2611 Corporate West Drive, has classrooms, lounges and a computer resource center, as well as 20 different lab areas, including diesel and automotive labs filled with cars and trucks.
One special lab replicates the refrigeration and heat-generating components of cargo trucks. Other labs allow students to break down and rebuild engines.
The Lisle campus draws about half its students from the local metropolitan area and the rest from across the Midwest, plus a student from Alaska. Resource personnel help students find local housing and jobs, and work to help every student succeed.
UTI has graduated more than 200,000 technicians during its 50 years in business. It has a reputation in the industry of quality training and instructors, along with knowledgeable graduates.
"What has led to our success," Mueller said, "is that we recognize that our customer is the industry."
Each student has an employment adviser from the time they start to graduation.
To graduate from one of the institute's programs, a student may need to successfully complete 17 to 30 different classes. Classes are not on a semester or quarterly schedule. Each course runs on a three-week cycle for six hours a day, and students focus on one class at a time. The school day has two sessions, starting at 6:30 a.m. and again at 1:50 p.m.
There is a constant flow of students entering programs and those graduating and moving into their chosen profession.
Technologies change so fast that it is important to keep up with the latest techniques and engine features. Classroom work helps students enhance their knowledge, while hands-on courses focus on improving their mechanical skills. Students work on actual vehicles and not mock-ups.
"We grade not only on class and lab work, but on professionalism as well." Mueller said. "We have a dress code program, look for dependability and on-time attendance. We want to build the right habits now to make our graduates great employees in the workforce. Many of our students have jobs before they graduate."
To make students more marketable, UTI has relationships with more than 30 of the top manufactures in the industry. In Lisle, students can specialize in Ford or Toyota, Peterbilt or Freightliner, for example, after they complete their core program.
UTI's Marine Mechanics program is located at its Orlando, Florida, location, and its Mooresville, North Carolina, campus offers NASCAR training.
"Our programs are the most robust out there," said Patrick Skarr, a UTI spokesman. "We are laser focused on the education the students want to get and help them get ready for their careers. No community college can afford the scope and depth of our program; we have five manufacture partnerships on campus specific to the field; we are focused on having our graduates industry ready."
Since it is estimated that a third of current technicians working in the industry today are nearing retirement, there is an increasing demand for quality technicians. Some employers may offer sign-on bonuses or moving costs.
Being a good neighbor, UTI offers scholarships to students who reside in Lisle, and those who attend Lisle Unit District 202 or Naperville Unit District 203 schools. The Boy Scout troop visits to UTI with hands-on learning are popular.
UTI also has a program to help veterans attend the school at a reduced rate. Some vets may even test out of some courses. Further detailed information for students is available at uti.edu/scholarships and utifoundation.net.
Students need to bring with them a willingness to learn. Basic requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent and English fluency, and students must be clear of any felonies. Free study skills classes are available to students. There is even a food pantry and interview clothing at the Lisle UTI to help students. All tools are provide to students while attending classes.
"There are more computers in cars today than were on the first space shuttles," Skarr said. "And it is only getting more complex."
Although the industry is heavily male, women account for roughly 2 percent of UTI students. However, Mueller readily points out that trained technicians can do the jobs whether male or female.
"We are getting students ready for life," Mueller said. "We truly change lives and that makes me proud of what we do."
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. Her column appears monthly in Neighbor.