By Jeff Murphy, March 6, 2019
Enhancing educational opportunities for students, Scott Wilson, fourth from left, professor and coordinator of the University of Central Missouri’s Automotive Technology Management Program, accepts the keys to a 2015 Ford Focus from Cliff Harris, owner of Warrensburg Ford, during a presentation March 1 in the T.R. Gaines Technology Building. Joining them were Ford Motor Company from the Kansas City Region, Warrensburg Ford, and UCM faculty and administrators, from left, Darren McCrory, program instructor; Brad Wilson, Ford regional parts and service operations manager; Alex Richards, associate professor; Tom Evans, Ford Credit regional manager; Ronnie Rollins, chair of the School of Technology; Marcus Hicks, Ford regional technical talent placement specialist; Shawn Jeffrey, general manager of Warrensburg Ford; Bob King, Ford field service engineer; Troy Turpin, Warrensburg Ford service manager; and Alice Greife, dean of the College of Health, Science and Technology.
WARRENSBURG, MO – Amidst rapidly changing technology, the automotive industry is creating partnerships with colleges and universities to ensure a well-prepared management workforce capable of handling different aspects of the automobile design, build and distribution process. That spirit of cooperation was evident when representatives of Ford Motor Company came to the University of Central Missouri March 1 to present a late-model vehicle to the Automotive Technology Management Program.
The 2015 Ford Focus was delivered from Warrensburg Ford, 330 E. Young Ave., accompanied by representatives of the national automaker’s corporate offices in the Kansas City metro area. This included UCM alumni, who helped make the gift possible, and were there to speak with students and faculty. The gift was made possible through the UCM Alumni Foundation.
“This is a great opportunity to give back to students and to give back to the university. I can’t think of a better place than UCM,” said Ford field engineer Robert King, a 1992 graduate of the university’s Automotive Technology Management program. He has worked for Ford for 25 years while also serving for two decades on the UCM Automotive Technology Advisory Board.
King participated in the key presentation, surrounded by UCM automotive technology faculty and a number of students who will be using the vehicle for hands-on training. It will give students an opportunity to study various automotive systems, including onboard computing, electrical, drive-train, fuel, and braking systems among many opportunities to help advance their understanding of up-to-date automotive technology.
Scott Wilson, professor and coordinator of the Automotive Technology Management Program, said keeping up with equipment needs is challenging in a higher education climate where state funds have continually been reduced. That’s why contributions such as the one from Ford are instrumental in exposing students to technology that will prepare them for future careers.
“Ford has definitely been active with UCM, especially in the last couple of years,” Wilson said. “We had some meetings over the summer with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, and one of the things all three of them stressed to the college group was that within the next five to 10 years they expect they are going to lose 50 percent of their technical engineering people. Of course, they are looking right at us as college instructors as if to say, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”
The answer, according to Wilson, is to create partnerships that include donations of equipment, materials and services that can aid in the learning process. The university has a long history of such relationships with all major United States automakers.
Alex Richards, associate professor of automotive technology, stressed that the university and its students appreciate such support.
“This is a program in which I feel we are very much positioned to push the envelope, and having that technology in our hands is always a contributing factor. That’s what makes the difference. That’s what allows us to put these students on a level that makes companies want to hire them,” Richards said.
The Automotive Technology Management Program is housed in the School of Technology in the College of Health, Science and Technology. College Dean Alice Greife joined her faculty in accepting Ford’s vehicle donation. In her remarks to the gathering on the lower level of the T.R. Gaines Technology Building, she expressed the university’s appreciation for alumni who have helped make such gifts possible, and who share their expertise in helping to advise the university on workforce training needed to better prepare students for auto industry careers.
“We feel enriched because we have alums who connect and bring unique knowledge and skills that complement those of our faculty” Greife said.
Brad Wilson, parts and service operations manager for Ford in its Kansas City Region, said there is a strong need for automotive technicians and people who can train them. By providing a vehicle to UCM, he said “We are investing in the future of Ford Motor Company and the future of students.”
Among the students who gathered to watch the presentation was Shannon Carl, a senior automotive technology major from Louisburg, Kan. Months before she graduates, Carl already has a job waiting for her as a technical assistant at Ford Motor Company in Detroit. She is following in the footsteps of an uncle who also graduated from UCM’s automotive technology program, and went to work for General Motors after earning his degree. Carl will be using her knowledge to work with individuals at Ford dealerships across the country to address technical issues.
She noted the value of gifts of equipment such as the one Ford provided to help enhance the learning experience. Carl commended UCM’s faculty in helping to prepare her for her new career.
“They take it very seriously,” she said in talking about faculty.” I have enjoyed every single class I’ve taken. The professors really push you. They want you to do well. They are always willing to help you out, which I appreciate, and they are very close to their students.”
She added, “The program is small enough that you get the individual help and attention from your professors that students really need to succeed.”
To learn more about the Automotive Technology Management degree, contact Wilson at 660-543-4065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.