In some high schools, it’s not uncommon for the cars that students work on in auto repair classes to be older than they are. Two faculty members from Cerritos College are working to change that in the Compton Unified School District.
Automotive instructors David Roper and Joe Mulleary are helping Centennial High School and Dominguez High School apply for National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accreditation.
NATEF certification is a five-step process that involves a self-evaluation and an on-site evaluation.
Roper and Mulleary are helping Centennial and Dominguez work through those steps and receive certification within the next year or so.
This certification provides high schools with what they need to offer the basic level of auto maintenance instruction, which students can use to obtain entry-level ASE Student Certification and continue on for advanced study at a community college.
Receiving NATEF certification requires an initial investment of money and teacher time by the high school, but it’s one that pays off in the end in the form of beneficial partnerships with auto dealers and manufacturers.
“We always tell the instructors that if they got the lowest level of accreditation, you’ll still open yourself to getting donations directly from the manufacturers,” Mulleary said.
Having high schools that are NATEF certified also ensures that students coming out of those programs are ready to tackle automotive courses at community college level — creating a pathway from high school to community college to a secure, well-paying job in the automotive field.
Maintaining NATEF accreditation is an ongoing process that requires a reevaluation every five years and a midterm self-evaluation. This ensures that instructors are staying up-to-date on the latest technology and continuing to provide quality training to their students.
“Not only is the school invested in the program from an equipment perspective, but the certification process also makes sure that instructors have to keep up,” Mulleary said. “A lot of times, instructors don’t have to keep up as much because the equipment isn’t new so there’s no incentive for them to do so.”
Outside of assistance with the certification process, Roper and Mulleary also consult with high schools on articulation agreements and make site visits to observe automotive labs. This is part of an ongoing effort to ensure that high school and community colleges are aligned for career pathways.
“High schools are trying to align with programs that community colleges in their districts have,” Roper said. “Centennial and Dominguez have said they’re willing to make the investment and change the layout of their automotive shop and we’re willing to help them make that happen.”