New CAT leadership brings intensified interest in attracting talent to industry
Modesto, Calif.—The California Automotive Teachers (CAT) association is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And, at its spring conference, held at Modesto Junior College, in Modesto, George Hritz was elected executive director after Bob Barkhouse, CAT co-founder and executive director, announced his retirement.
Hritz said the mission statement of CAT is to promote the best interests of automotive instruction throughout the State of California, including professional development and cross training of automotive technology instructors on changing technology in the industry.
High school automotive programs have been closing at an alarming rate, he said. And there are fewer than 350 qualified high school automotive teachers working in the entire state.
“The challenge is determining where future technicians are going to come from,” he said. “If high school students are not exposed to the automotive repair industry they will never learn about being a technician as a career.”
He said another challenge is finding new teachers to replace those teachers who are retiring or are close to retirement.
“Rio Hondo College has a new Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Technology program, but there is only one CSU automotive teacher credential program. If we are going to attract people to the teaching profession more programs need to be available.”
Hritz said the CAT board is starting a comprehensive survey to be sent to all California community colleges that teach automotive technology to identify the number of courses required to complete an automotive technology certificate.
“The goal of the survey is to identify full-time career track program hours, units, course structure, and staffing as they relate to individual programs and ASE certification area A1-A8 and L1 in California – and then nationwide.”
Program certification is critical for automotive programs to meet industry standards, said Hritz, who wants to influence instructors to start working on certification.
The CAT board has expressed that it supports and encourages certification of its members, the department of education, CalABC, ASCCA, and IAPA.
Hritz said if a school has a small engine repair program, it should apply for certification with the Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC). A high school automotive program should apply for the ATTS Level I, or NATEF Maintenance & Light Repair MLR.
“Right now 55 percent of the community college automotive programs are certified,” he said. “My goal is impress upon the remaining 45 percent that they should work toward becoming ATTS or NATEF certified.”
Hritz comes to CAT with longtime industry background
Hritz was selected by the CAT executive board at the board meeting on April 29, and approved by the general membership at the business meeting on Saturday, April 30.
Before retiring, he taught automotive technology for 37 years, beginning at San Marin High School in Novato, Calif., the College of Marin in Novato, and Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio. He also taught at Sun Electric in Northern California, BP Oil in Parma, Ohio, and at the General Motors Training Center in Cleveland.
“At the high school my title was instructor, assistant football coach, assistant wrestling coach, and head track coach,” Hritz said. “At the College of Marin, I was department chair, program coordinator and instructor, at Cuyahoga Community College I was the Toyota T-Ten coordinator and instructor, and I was a contract trainer for Sun, BP, and GM.”
Barkhouse leaves strong legacy
“I told the CAT board that I would retire my position in concert with the 50th anniversary celebrations,” Barkhouse said. “I will miss seeing my old friends and vendors and keeping up with technology through our many seminars. I have to finish out this year and I have no intention of disappearing. Thank you, CAT members, for a great 50 years, you all made it happen.”
Hritz said, “My first memories of Bob were at the GM training center during the summer instructor’s workshop in the 1970s. Even though there were about 200 instructors attending the classes, Bob and I were able to spend a lot of time together and I got to know him.”
Hritz said without Barkhouse’s mentoring he would not have developed into a person who can speak in front of large groups and have the confidence to be a leader.
“His most important skills are the ability to stay calm and to listen. He has a great sense of humor, he can laugh with you and take a joke,” Hritz said. “I’m sure there are many who feel the same way I do and want to thank Bob for all he’s done for them. Bob is a ‘founding father’ of CAT, and father is the correct word because he feels like a father to us. This is CAT’s 50th year and Bob has never missed a meeting.”
Don Schumacher, president of CAT, said, “Bob Barkhouse has been a pillar for CAT and we will all miss his guidance.