This article is part of an ongoing series to highlight instructors in the automotive and diesel industries and promote the technician career. Are you an instructor who wants to be spotlighted? Sign up!
Instructor Spotlight: Donnie Smith
Name: Donnie Smith
School: Bollman Technical Education Center
Experience: 16 years as an Automotive Technician, and 17 years as an Automotive Instructor
How long were you a technician? How long have you been an instructor?
I started working for a dealership while I was in high school. It was a program that allowed me to work during the morning and after school. After graduation, I decided to make this my full time career and enrolled at WyoTech. I graduated from WyoTech in 1988 and started my full time career in collision repair. I went back to work at the same dealership I worked at in high school, then moved on to other body shops. I worked as an estimator at a dealership and as an auto adjuster at a independent adjusting firm. I started my teaching career at Tyler Junior College in 2004.
What creative ways do you use to involve local industry in your classroom?
I rely heavily on my advisory board. Not only do they keep me updated on their expectations for entry-level students, but we bring them into our classroom to talk to students. We take time from the classroom and do field trips to their shops. My students have opportunities to sit in on production meetings and ask technicians questions. Many of my students work part-time at the shops—while being enrolled in the automotive program.
How do you show your students what to look for in a good shop?
I teach students to look for shops that provide ongoing training. The fast-paced changes in vehicle trends makes it crucial to stay updated. We look for shops who are willing to teach and train students at an entry-level. Some businesses will only hire technicians with five or more years of experience, and I believe this will have to change to fill future positions.
How do you help your students find apprenticeship/part-time/full-time employment?
I use my advisory board to find part-time and/or full-time employment. Social media plays a big role in helping students gain employment in local or distant shops as well.
What do you wish industry understood the most about your students/program?
I think the biggest concern is helping students transition from school to industry. Vehicles are very complex and changing rapidly. Training does not end after school and continues throughout their career.