Eau Claire, WI – Brandon Clark of Chippewa Falls sat on a stool underneath a car hoisted on a lift at the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Automotive Technician program lab. He was doing some diagnostics with the help of a laptop computer while a couple of classmates degreased a partially removed transmission.
Last year, the second-year student would not have been able to use a laptop right at the vehicle; he would have been limited to a desktop computer station. That’s not the only change Clark has noticed in the lab since a major remodeling over the summer.
“It’s a lot more open now,” he said. “It’s not so cluttered.”
Getting rid of clutter, though, was not the major reason for the remodeling of the area used to train about 50 automotive technicians a year.
“It was unsafe,” said Brian Gerrits, Automotive Technician instructor and chairman of the department. “There were students working on both sides of the lab, with one instructor.”
The two sides Gerrits refers to are not two parts of one big room, but rather two separate rooms, and neither was organized very efficiently.
“There were cabinets in the wall for tool storage and you couldn’t see what was in them. The equipment wasn’t laid out in an efficient way,” Gerrits continued.
The hoists for the cars were not even lined up together. The layout limited the number of vehicles that could be serviced at once.
Today the lab space looks and feels like a professional auto service area like one that might be found at an auto dealership. It’s also amazingly clean, something the program instructors emphasize. The hoists are lined up, opening up an area by the entrance doors where more cars can be brought in for work that doesn’t require a hoist.
“You have more space so you can get more cars in,” said student Matt Young of Chippewa Falls. “You don’t have to use a lift just to do an oil change. You can use the jacks.”
“What we were trying to accomplish is to have everyone in the same lab with the instructor,” Gerrits said.
The remodeling work did that and more. Students, who are required to supply their own tools, now have a secure storage area. An organized storage room cleaned up the clutter, and revealed a number of automotive brand logos that had been painted on the walls by a student a few years ago. That second part of the lab is now the alignment and tire repair room, and is also used when even more area is needed for vehicles.
The area is now a much better educational environment where students work on vehicles brought in by CVTC students and staff. The College does not compete with private professional auto repair shops by servicing vehicles from the general public.