STEM Automotive Industry

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Cars just aren’t made like they used to be. Don’t roll your eyes! That’s not only the perspective that time can give: new automotive vehicles are very different machines than they were 100, 50, or even 10 years ago.

While computers have been a common component of cars for many years, the number—and complexity—of computer-controlled parts (also known as ECUs: electronic control units) has been increasing rapidly. According to Recode, an affiliate site of The Verge, today’s cars have up to 100 million lines of software code to keep them running.

Collision alert systems, automatic diagnostics checks, blind-spot assists, vehicle locators, navigation systems, Bluetooth connectivity, lane-keeping assists, 360-degree cameras: these are just a few of the electronic control units you’ll see in the average car these days. And all those moving parts don’t even account for the wiring or electronic signaling keeping them all connected, not to mention the traditional mechanics of a car (you know, like an engine or a transmission or a radiator).

With this massive evolution and continuing adaptation to new technologies, it’s not just the cars themselves that are changing. The people who make them (and maintain them!) are adapting just as quickly.

When you think of an auto mechanic, chances are that the first picture that comes to mind is a grease monkey: someone who’s working primarily with wrenches and is covered in oil. That kind of work is still necessary to maintain and repair the internal combustion engine inside most cars on America’s roads, but it’s not the whole picture.

In the past, “car mechanic” would typically be categorized as a strictly mechanical position. But now it’s more likely to also be considered a STEM field. “STEM” is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—an area that has seen a huge increase in focus lately. These are areas of skill that tend to be more analytical, with a hands-on approach to problem-solving.

Many people think of mathematicians or scientists when they think of STEM, but there are many skilled trades positions that can also be considered STEM jobs—and those related to the auto industry are definitely among them.

The science and technology behind how cars function effectively and safely is essential to keeping the automotive industry, the commerce that depends on motor vehicles, and the millions of cars actually on the road literally running smoothly. And these days, that’s more than oil changes and brake pads. The computer systems and software that ensure individual components function individually—and collectively—also need consistent and proper maintenance.

As we look toward a future of self-driving cars and a continued reliance on computers as they become inseparable with our vehicles, a mechanic who can understand and work with that technology will be a very valuable asset to auto manufacturers, car dealerships, and garages and repair shops.

Imagine America Scholarships and Award Programs for Automotive Mechanics

If you have a student who’s always been interested in cars, enjoys working with their hands, or has an aptitude for mechanics, technology, or math, becoming an automotive mechanic could be a great career path for them and a way to break into the popular STEM field. Auto mechanics can specialize in many different areas, including diesel, high-performance, collision repair, and manufacturer-specific specialties.

Universal Technical Institute and the Imagine America Foundation have been partnering together for over 20 years. This partnership has resulted in over 15,000 students receiving an Imagine America scholarship AND a quality education for a better future! If you'd like to contact someone at Universal Technical Institute about speaking to your school's graduating class, please fill out the form below.

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