Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F31

FIXED OPS JOURNAL

BMW spends big on training, facilities to ease tech crunch

B

ALYSHA WEBB
foj@autonews.com

MW of North America is investing big
to expand its training of dealership service technicians in the United States.
The goal is to boost by 60 percent
the number of technicians the automaker
trains by 2020, says Denise Melville, department head at BMW Group University. It's a
matter of necessity, she adds.
"Where are we going to find these technicians?" Melville told Fixed Ops Journal. "They
aren't growing on trees."
BMW seeks to boost the annual number of
technicians who graduate from the training
centers it owns to around 800, Melville says.
BMW's U.S. dealerships need to add more
than 1,500 technicians each year to cover
turnover and new positions.
Melville declined to disclose the size of the
investment, but says it will increase the size of
BMW-owned training facilities by 50 percent.
BMW owns training centers at its headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., and in Ontario,
Calif.; Schaumburg, Ill.; Atlanta; Oxnard, Calif. and Spartanburg, S.C.
In Atlanta, BMW is building a new campus
that will quadruple its training space, Melville
says. The new 12,000-square-foot site will
have 12 classrooms.

MARINES
continued from Page 30

inaugural MSTEP class were chosen though a
different process from students in other BMW
tech programs, who must have earned certification in a postsecondary automotive program or
completed the automotive technology curriculum offered by Universal Technical Institute, a
for-profit provider of technical education.
For MSTEP students such as Adam Ritchie,
experience working on cars counts. When
Ritchie, 23, completes his four years of Marine
service in August, he will be ready to begin
work at a BMW dealership.
"If I can get paid for my hobby, it will be the
best thing ever," Ritchie says.
To get accepted into MSTEP, Ritchie and his
classmates had to pass a written test covering
general auto repair knowledge. They took a practical test in which a car's engine was covered with
a blanket; they had to identify, using Post-it
notes, engine components that they couldn't
see. They also had to replace an air filter.

The renovated site in Ontario will add 12
classrooms, along with a body and paint shop.
BMW also is adding training space at its New
Jersey center, and a new building at the Spartanburg training facility.
The Ontario expansion will allow BMW to double, to six, the number of graduating classes each
year in its Service Technician Education Program, says Gary Uyematsu, BMW of North
America's national technician training manager.
BMW University has 14 U.S. locations. The
six BMW corporate training centers offer the
16-week STEP certification program. Other
locations that provide STEP certification are
the Military STEP center at Camp Pendleton
Marine Base in California, operated by United
Technical Institute, and two other UTI campuses in Avondale, Colo., and Orlando.
STEP also is available at a Lincoln Technical
Institute campus in Grand Prairie, Texas, and
at Ohio Technical College in Cleveland.
Three community colleges - Chabot Community College in Hayward, Calif; Mass Bay
Community College in Boston; and Central
Piedmont Community College in Charlotte,
N.C. - offer associate degree programs based
on a modified STEP curriculum.
BMW is also expanding its apprenticeship
program, which mainly serves community
college graduates with degrees in service tech,

Uyematsu says. The six-month program alternates between two weeks of training and two
weeks of work in a dealership.
UTI and other educational institutions that
partner with BMW aren't part of the expansion plan. But BMW's Melville says "we need
them to bring us more candidates."
Chabot Community College is visiting middle and high schools to build interest in careers as service techs, says John Labonte, the
college's interim outreach specialist. Chabot
offers an associate degree in automotive technology with a specialization in BMW vehicles.
Interest in the BMW program continues to
grow because of the prospect it offers students
of a good job after graduation, Labonte says.
UTI employs a BMW representative specifically to promote STEP, says Kim McWaters,
the company's president.
UTI promotes campus career fairs where
students can talk with BMW dealers and examine the automaker's vehicles. It hosts "future tech" nights at BMW dealerships, inviting
potential students and their families and
friends to learn about service tech careers.
The key, McWaters says, is to show young
people that tech jobs are highly skilled, wellpaid positions.
"The best thing we can do," she adds, "is try
to change the image of a technician." 

BMW is working with UTI on the Camp
Pendleton program. The automaker and institute also work together on two other BMW
tech training programs in the United States.
"The civilian world does not recognize military experience in terms of credentials," UTI
President Kim McWaters says. "When [MSTEP
students] graduate, they will have credentials."

with the concept for MSTEP.
"The general [Killea] said veterans are critical thinkers," Westbrook says. "You need that
to diagnose a BMW."
To house MSTEP at Camp Pendleton, Melville says, BMW spent "several hundred thousand dollars" to renovate a building next to an
open-air garage with a handful of lifts. Newly
installed equipment includes a wheel alignment rack, a tire changing machine and wheel
balancer, an engine hoist, and a computer
loaded with BMW diagnostic software.
CEO Kuhnt says BMW could expand the
training program to other military locations,
depending on the success of the Camp Pendleton initiative.
Killea says that Marines "identify with an organization and know how to be part of a
team." He adds that MSTEP has "tremendous"
growth potential, and that he hopes other
companies will invest in similar training programs for military personnel.
"I think this will develop into a standard," he
says. 

Born at a barbecue
The idea for MSTEP emerged from a backyard
barbecue, says Craig Westbrook, vice president
of BMW of North America's southern region. In
2015, Westbrook - then the automaker's vice
president of sales channel development and
customer relations - chatted with a Marine
veteran who had been deployed in Iraq.
The veteran told Westbrook that BMW could
do a better job of letting Marines use the skills
they had developed in the military after they
returned to civilian life. Westbrook proposed
the idea of tech training, but the Marine
thought it was "a reach," Westbrook says. Still,
Westbrook kept thinking about it and came up

APRIL 2018

PAGE 31



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018

Contents
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - Intro
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F1
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F2
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - Contents
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F4
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F5
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F6
Fixed Ops Journal - April 2018 - F7
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