I had the pleasure of sitting near a few members of Parkland College’s Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team during a flight to Las Vegas for the SEMA show. While listening to their conversations, it quickly became apparent they were from the Champaign, Illinois area, which is just two hours from my home. Upon further questioning, the students told me they were headed to Las Vegas to compete in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competition held on-site at SEMA.

This, of course, peaked my curiosity since one of Technician.Academy’s goals is to help community colleges with the task of bringing new talent into the automotive industry. Once we arrived in Vegas, I made it a goal of mine to watch these young people compete. The first day of the show I searched out the competition area and had the pleasure of meeting both of Parkland’s Hot Rodders of Tomorrow coaches, Adam Karch and David Charney. I was also introduced to Jon Ross, Parkland’s Director of the Automotive Program.

Fast forward several months, Technician.Academy was presented with an outstanding opportunity to present digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) training to their students. The Technician.Academy team was greeted by Adam Karch, one of the two full-time instructors for the automotive program. With several items to unload for the presentation, Adam directed us to pull into the automotive lab area. It was a very impressive facility. There were several students working on vehicles that were in different stages of repair.

The Technician.Academy team was treated to a complete tour of the facility. It has four classrooms dedicated to the automotive program along with fifteen separate lifts. There are also three up-to-date alignment bays and a fully integrated chassis dyno. The complete facility houses a few other programs as well, such as a CNC machine lab and classroom, welding lab, and a complete body shop program that has one full-time instructor.

During the tour, we talked with Jon Ross about the history of the college and the automotive program. He stated that their program had just celebrated its 50th anniversary. He explained that the current building has about 30,000 square foot devoted specifically to the automotive program and is a very new structure, just four years old.

One of the many impressive things about this program is the local support that the instructors have been able to receive. This support comes in the way of local employers excited to hire Parkland’s students into intern programs and even to help finance the new facility.

I was very impressed with the professionalism that was shown by the instructors, which has clearly transferred to their students. It is clear to see why Parkland’s students have no problem making a successful move into the industry.