Northern Michigan University has become the first Subaru University (Subaru-U) in the Upper Peninsula and the second in Michigan. NMU will infuse the corporation’s web-based training into its existing two-year automotive service technology curriculum at no extra cost to students. It will also enhance hands-on learning with the recent addition of three vehicle models donated by Subaru of America. Students will graduate with an industry credential that qualifies them to work at any Subaru dealership.
“Vehicles are becoming more technically advanced,” said Randy Klitzke, NMU assistant professor. “The Subaru training won’t be a separate pathway, but a complement to the instruction we already have in place. For example, we can use their web-based training for repair order writing instead of the textbook. It also expands our curriculum. If we’re talking about auto transmission adaptive controls, we can supplement that with Subaru-specific adaptive controls that our students can see first-hand with the three new vehicles.”
Subaru provides access to its Learning Management System for instructors and students from accredited NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation) programs like Northern’s. Students have the opportunity to complete Subaru Technician Level 1 and 2 web-based training, which qualifies them for entry-level positions.
Klitzke said there is also the potential for a dealer apprenticeship or internship before they graduate. That would make them eligible for further instruction at one of 12 training centers nationwide. Either way, they will leave NMU with a credential that proves they can operate at a high caliber, he added.
Subaru of America donated a 2016 Crosstrek, a 2016 Outback and a 2017 Forester valued at $71,000 to NMU. Steve Sanderson is the service manager at Fox Motors Marquette, the local dealer. He said the company typically donates engines and transmissions, but rarely complete vehicles.
Sanderson also is on NMU’s automotive technology advisory committee. He learned about Subaru-U at a conference and suggested NMU consider being among the first schools nationwide to participate. Sanderson said dealerships, like many skilled trades areas, are struggling to find qualified technicians to fill their workforce and replace the large number of employees who are retiring.
“There is absolutely an automotive technician shortage nationally,” he said. “Subaru-U was started because of this shortage as a way to ‘grow your own’ skilled service technicians. Students will stay in the Subaru system after graduating, even if they don’t go to a Subaru dealer. Down the road if they move to a dealer, they will still have their Subaru certifications.”
For more information on NMU’s automotive technology program, visit nmu.edu/tos/autotech.