Rondo Erickson – Associate Professor – Automotive Technology 1978 to 2004
Submitted October 2021
Introduction - Overview
The Automotive Department at Weber State Academy was organized after World War II when John Gaz and Blaine Hartog were hired to develop a program to train automotive mechanics.
John and Blaine retired in 1979. Rick DeMoss and I were hired to replace these excellent automotive instructors. The Weber Academy had become Weber College by then and later became Weber State University.
The Society of Automotive Engineers, which is a national organization in the automotive industry, was functioning in Utah. I served as President of the local Chapter. SAE serves automotive related businesses and individuals such as automotive technicians.
Auto Service Program
During the 1980’s and 1990’s Rick and I helped create partnerships with several major automobile manufacturers including General Motors, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda.
These programs were a partnership program between their dealerships and schools throughout the United States that had an automotive service training program. The General Motors program was called ASEP (Automotive Service Excellence Program), Toyota T-TEN (Toyota Technical Education Network) and Chrysler CAP (Chrysler Apprentice Program). I became the coordinator of the T-TEN program at Weber State.
These manufacturers invited faculty members in our auto program to attend their factory service training. They provided curriculum including service training manuals and current year vehicles for training at Weber State. The students received factory certificates for completing the courses. These programs were included in the requirements for a 2-year Associate Degree. Half of the time the students were on co-op experience where they worked at dealerships with experienced technicians. The students were paid at these jobs. They were visited by a faculty member during their co-op time and their progress was monitored with the participating dealership.
This created a premier two-year Automotive Service Program for the Automotive Department and also benefited the existing Automotive Associate Program.
Students in the two-year Automotive Program could also transfer into the four-year Automotive Engineering Technology Program. The above-mentioned automotive manufacturers hired graduates from the two-year and four-year programs. The four-year program also provided trained people for transportation businesses like UPS, FedEx, UTA and State Government agencies dealing in environmental issues and vehicle safety.
The Weber State College Automotive Contest
The origin of this contest began in 1988 when Rick DeMoss and I were invited to start a cooperative automotive training program with General Motors. It was called ASEP (Automotive Service Excellence Program.) We were in Flint, Michigan visiting the Buick Manufacturing plant of General Motors. Rick was talking to the administrators of the ASEP program, I was at the Buick Manufacturing Assembly plant visiting with Al Spears, plant manager, when he offered to donate a vehicle to Weber State that could be awarded to a high school with an outstanding program. We discussed details of who should receive this brand-new Buick vehicle. They suggested that we create a contest involving high schools that had an automotive program in their school. I was asked to be responsible to create some kind of a contest. We set a goal to have a contest starting in the winter of 1989. It involved just under 20 high schools in the state of Utah. The contest rules included that these schools come to Weber State campus and participate in a hands-on troubleshooting contest to solve mechanical and electrical problems that we had placed in the vehicles and components of the automobile. Winners were selected on how accurate they found and repaired the problem in the shortest time. There was also a written test to assess the automotive knowledge the high school students had. Judges for the contest included service managers from local automotive dealerships. The high school that won first place received a new Buick automobile for their training program at their high school. We arranged to have the contest on a day when the students could attend a major Weber State basketball game in the evening after participating in the contest all day. We also provided a banquet for all of the participants. We had arranged with the athletic department to announce the winners of the contest at halftime during the basketball game. The Weber State President announced the winners. The first year we got the OK to drive the Buick vehicle under the basketball hoop to show the audience what the first-place winners received for their high school automotive program. The enthusiasm at the time when the winners were announced was electrifying. It was a wonderful recruiting tool for the Weber State Automotive Program plus it involved others on the Weber State Campus including the athletic department and the College administration. The Weber State Automotive Training Program was spotlighted.
Over the next few years we developed automotive co-op training programs with Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda. Also, our contest recruitment area grew to include Idaho, Montana and Nevada. Many students from these states attended Weber for training and then were hired by the automobile dealers of the five major manufacturers. When I retired in 2004 Weber had become Weber State University. There were 38 high schools that participated in the contest and many automotive businesses contributed gifts, tools etc. to the winning high school students. Employers hired most of the students who were in the contest who had attended Weber’s Automotive two-year program. The contest also became a recruiting tool for Weber’s Automotive four-year baccalaureate program and many students from this program were hired to work for the Automobile Manufacturers including General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda.
ASE Testing (Automotive Service Excellence)
Automotive technicians are required to update their certifications in eight areas of automotive repair (i.e. air conditioning, automatic transmission, brakes, etc.) in order to be ASE certified. In cooperation with Weber State’s Testing Service Department, I facilitated this testing twice a year. This also provided a place for the technicians to come to the campus to see the training facilities.