From left: Brad McCombs, Cuyamaca College automotive technology instructor and department chair, Rocky Khamenian, 2018 ASCCA state president, and Larry McLemore, Cuyamaca College career education dean.From left: Rocky Khamenian, John Eppstein, and Brad McCombs receive a certificate of appreciation for their hard work in developing the ASCCA degree program.

Technician shortage leads ASCCA and Cuyamaca College to create new degree program

Program is first of its kind to channel students to independent shops

El Cajon, Calif.—Most repair shop owners are familiar with programs such as the Ford ASSET, GM ASEP, Chrysler Mopar CAP, and Toyota T-Ten, offered at most community colleges in California.

The only problem with those programs is that the curriculums were created by the OEMs and designed to channel students to their dealerships, said Carm Capriotto, of Remarkable Results Radio, adding that it took a few dedicated Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA) member repair shop owners and an educator to realize that a program was needed that channeled students to independents.

The result was two-year associate degree program that was introduced at the ASCCA September Team Weekend, held at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, which drew nearly 70 ASCCA shop owners and educators from all over California, and special guests from Bridgestone/Firestone, NAPA Auto Parts, and the Automotive Training Institute (ATI).

The first-of-its-kind program in the nation is now approved by the State of California for all community colleges, and offers in-class training and on-the-job training, where students will apply their learning through paid work experience at an ASCCA member shop or affiliate.

Larry McLemore, Cuyamaca Career Education dean, explained to the audience how the new degree program works and why the lessons present valuable opportunities for students by providing increased work experience.

“The curriculum is designed to make it easier to graduate with an ‘in-high-demand skill set” through competency-based training and college credit by test and skill,” McLemore said. “That includes a vision of the future, and a long-term plan for a successful and rewarding career in automotive repair, including business ownership.”

Speaker Brad McCombs, Cuyamaca College automotive technology instructor, Ford ASSET program coordinator, and department chair, said that in a recent survey of automotive students, 70 percent said they want to work at an independent service provider (ISP) instead of a dealership.

“This collaborative program signals a shift in the way we educate,” he said. “Bright students will no longer be put in the lube bay at a dealership.”

The ASCCA degree program offers other benefits, such as possible tuition or tool reimbursement, and students enrolled in other automotive programs at the college can transfer to the ASCCA program.

“And, the curriculum will change, based on the needs of the ISP education committee and advisory council,” McCombs said. “For example, service writer/manager training and even business management classes are planned. 

“Our intention has always been to share the framework of the degree with all colleges and high school programs,” McCombs said. “Most training programs fail when students do not have a plan for the future. A degree is a plan with work experience requirements. When I survey students and ask them about their career goals. Many of them dream the ‘American Dream’ to be like you guys and gals — ‘I want to own and operate my own business someday.’”  

Speakers from nearby high school districts, including Omar Sevilla, Greg Quinn, and Carl Kingsbury, also spoke about their programs and initiatives to increase interest in students that want to pursue a career in automotive repair.

“This event marked the culmination of years of hard work to establish an ASCCA automotive training degree,” Rocky Khamenian, 2018 ASCCA state president, said. “In particular, Chapter 24’s Dara Bakhshandeh of CD Auto Care, in La Mesa, and John Epstein of John’s Automotive Care, in San Diego. Plus Brad McCombs and Larry McLemore of Cuyamaca College.”

“It will not only help students wanting a career in independent automotive repair, but also ASCCA members looking for new technicians to work in their shops,” he added.

The NATEF-compliant ASCCA Associate of Science Automotive Technology College degree program will begin with the Spring 2019 semester. For complete details, visit

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