Success Story: Renton Technical College: Automotive Technician Programs

Renton Technical College: Automotive Technician Programs
3000 NE 4th St Renton, WA 98056

Becoming the first college in Washington to have multiple trade training programs earn EnviroStars certification is a natural connection for the instructors at Renton Technical College. Seven programs have been certified to-date: Automotive Technology, ITEC Automotive Technician, Auto Body Repair and Refinishing, Ford ASSET, Major Appliance & Refrigeration Technology, and Dental Assisting. The courses offer practical training, job entry skills and more: a connection between work, health and the environment; something the college has in common with other EnviroStars businesses.

Renton Technical College (RTC) instructors are using EnviroStars to take a fresh look at chemical handling in their courses. The recognition of hazardous materials in RTC shops has taken off since an observant tool room employee began questioning some materials. Some materials are "sneakier, depending on how they're used," John Mundy, Ford ASSET Automotive program instructor, points out. One example is PAG oil (polyalcohol glycol); safe at room temperatures, but refrigerated and pressurized it will blister unprotected skin. Mundy found EnviroStars on-line and teamed with employee Gary Bagnell to promote the program. Previously, RTC staff perspective was their classes had no "environmental waste," not an unusual view in shops using common hazardous products daily. Now the staff are promoting the program to their business partners and colleagues, with the full backing of forward-thinking Dean of Trades $ Industries, Karen Johnson.

The college participates in the Ford ASSET program, which helps train and connect students with sponsoring dealerships. Ford ASSET training includes hazardous materials, handling, disposal, liability and documentation, and EnviroStars technical assistance adds a customized service to the courses. EnviroStars keeps the trainers up on current regulations and inspired them to think ahead to the impact of storm water regulations on their practices. Mundy, Auto body Repair and Refinishing instructor Brad Slayton, and other teachers are looking at all the materials used: changing the lead wheel weights for non-lead, to a new method of floor cleaning to cut soap and water use and save time and money.

Anticipating and solving problems are part of the automotive training. Students cut apart and reassemble vehicles, vans and cars regularly; four donated autos were rebuilt in 2006. A spectacular test of these skills is obvious in the Ford ASSET truck. This project tackled how to mate two working front ends of Ford F350 diesels. Besides the bodywork and welding, students had to solve the steering, electrical and other system challenges to create a 9,900 pound cruiser. (No word on the gas mileage!)

Look under the hood of the RTC automotive instruction and you will find instructors applying their skills to a safer classroom and environment, and graduates prepared with excellent safety habits, problem solving experience and training in chemical handling. All valuable assets as regulations, public demand and the job place require environmentally friendly services. And most grads are walking into lucrative jobs where these skills are highly valued too.