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UTI instructors are some of the best in the business. They come from all different backgrounds and incorporate their unique experiences in the industry into the classroom, giving students a glimpse of what it’s like to pursue a career in the field.
One instructor who has made an incredible impact on both the industry and lives of his students is Michael Heyman, a BMW STEP Instructor at UTI Orlando. Michael has accomplished incredible things in his career, most recently receiving the BMW Group Trainer Certification and achieving a final grade of distinction—the highest level an instructor can receive!
Michael is a well-known instructor and is favored by his students, many of whom have gone on to pursue successful careers across the U.S. Keep reading to learn all about Michael’s inspiring story, his recent award and his advice for those looking to break into this industry.
Michael grew up in a small New Jersey town, a few miles up the Parkway from Springsteen and Bon Jovi. He grew up during the era of American muscle cars and found himself fascinated with cars from his crib.
A car enthusiast at heart, Michael decided to attend a trade school and study automotive technology. After graduating, he went right to work in his dream job as an auto technician. “I quickly realized the overwhelming feeling of pride and satisfaction being able to provide security and peace of mind to car owners. From that day forward I knew this was the profession for me,” he says.
Michael became ASE master and L1 certified as well as certified as a New Jersey emissions repair tech while working for 12 years at various repair facilities. He even went on to open his own repair facility, which in 10 years grew from a rented two bay facility to owning a 7,200 square-foot successful business with six full-time employees.
During this time, Michael became involved with the New Jersey Mechanics Education Association, where he met an instructor who changed his perspective on where he wanted to go in his career. According to Michael, this instructor had a way of making you see things a way you had never seen them before. He could take the most complex topics and break them down in a way that everyone understood.
Meeting this instructor sparked Michael’s interest in teaching. He eventually became a part-time contract instructor for the Mechanics Education Association, where he would teach classes in the evening and run his shop during the day.
In 2007, Michael moved to Florida. He came across a job posting for UTI-Orlando and applied, and before he knew it, he was teaching drivability classes. Once he started teaching at UTI, he was hooked and knew he didn’t want to do anything else. “I love what I do. I love the industry, it has been very good to me. I love teaching—the longer I do it, the better it becomes,” he shares.
Michael was one of a two-man team that rolled out the BMW Fast Track program and was a technical team leader for the core program’s drivability courses. In 2017, he became a BMW STEP instructor, which he shares was one of the most exciting times of his instructional career. “I have always loved being a part of the automotive industry and enjoy the opportunity to give back and help the future of our industry,” he says.
The BMW STEP program is designed to prepare students with basic automotive knowledge for the policies, procedures and repairs in a BMW dealership. As an instructor, Michael teaches everything from how to use BMW’s diagnostic equipment to how to put a BMW on a lift, follow the policies BMW uses to how to complete preventive maintenance services.
In addition to being an instructor for the program, Michael has played a vital role in how BMW STEP is perceived in the industry. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) designed a BMW-specific ASE test, and as a BMW and UTI representative, Michael went to ASE and helped to evaluate the questions.
This year, Michael will be back at ASE representing BMW and UTI to help develop a brand new test for advanced driver systems. “This portion of my career at UTI has hands-down been the best part. I’ve gotten more opportunities in the 3 years I’ve been with the STEP program than I ever have before,” he shares.
For Michael, being an instructor is incredibly rewarding. He loves crossing paths with his students and seeing them go on to succeed in their careers. Recently, he was in a BMW model update class, and one of the attendees sitting just two chairs away from him was one of his former students, who has now been in the industry for 10 years.
Another one of his students who was part of the first-ever fast track class stopped by to see Michael, and he now owns a very successful and profitable speed shop in Orlando. Michael has even had a student who he taught 10 years ago come back to see him and thank him for the impact he made.
One of Michael’s favorite memories as an instructor was when one of his students who drew characters created a drawing of him with a T-bucket, which hangs in his office to this day. Michael even had the parents of one of his students send him a thank you letter and an emissions device the student had taken apart on his car at home, so Michael could use it as a training aid in class.
“To have a student come back and stop in because you made an impact on them just to say thank you is everything,” Michael shares. “You can’t get that in a paycheck.” When he worked as a technician, he found the same sense of fulfillment in his career. Being able to help people every day was what motivated him to succeed.
As a trainer for BMW, you have to be certified. When Michael was first hired, he went to a certification class alongside all types of BMW trainers, including those who go to dealerships and teach salesmen how to sell BMW product. Two years later, the head of curriculum development came out to watch Michael teach to ensure he was implementing what he learned in his environment.
Michael was teaching alongside a co-instructor when a BMW curriculum representative came to observe his class. He noticed that the representative was taking notes, which he later found out that instead of critiquing Michael, was because he was learning from him!
After a day of observing, the representative sat Michael down and told him that he has an innate ability to make a very complex topic seem simple—which is exactly what Michael admired about the instructor in New Jersey. BMW uses a point score system for the evaluation, and Michael was given a level of distinction, which is the highest level you can receive! These are hardly ever rewarded and only go to those who go above and beyond.
At the 100th graduation of Florida STEP, Michael was presented with the BMW Group Trainer Certification as well as his level of distinction. This was when Michael found out that he was the only one in the country that received it this year, and he is one of three people in the world to receive this honor in 2019.
“It means the world to me. I still have a hard time believing it,” Michael shares. His photo is currently on the wall at the BMW training center in Germany, alongside the other individuals who earned this award.
As a former technician, shop owner and now instructor, Michael knows what it takes to be successful in this industry. His advice for technicians is to always stay honest. According to him, “There’s a lot of opportunity to be dishonest, but your integrity is the world. It’s not about the money.”
For Michael, this career is about helping others. It’s about helping someone fix their car so they can take a trip home to see their family on the holidays. It’s about helping a mom fix her car so she can take her kids to school.
“You have the ability to change lives even though you’re just fixing a car. You need to realize that your integrity and your honesty is all you have to prove that. If you stick to that, the money and the rewards will come your way,” Michael shares. Never lose sight of why you started this journey. This career path isn’t always easy, but if you have a passion for it, it’s incredibly rewarding.
As an instructor, Michael’s advice is to say humble and remember that you don’t know everything. “I’ve learned a lot from my students. I’d like to think they teach me almost as much as I’m supposed to teach them,” he says.
“There is a huge demand for technicians on all levels. From independents to dealerships, everybody is struggling for technicians,” Michael shares. Everyone drives a car, and everyone needs a good technician.
Misconceptions about what this career entails have led to a skills gap that many employers are struggling to fill. The industry looks drastically different than it did just 10 years ago, and technicians are evolving right alongside today’s modern technology. “Now, you’re diagnosing vehicles that are more advanced than the first lunar shuttle that landed on the moon,” Michael says.
The advanced technology that’s in today’s cars is exciting. This industry is offering incredible opportunities to skilled technicians, and those who are taking advantage of it are experiencing the benefits. This is a career that you can take with you wherever you go. No matter where you are in the country, your skills as a technician are a commodity.
What does the 100th BMW STEP program class in Orlando mean for the graduates? Find out here.
UTI has partnered with BMW of North America to support an initiative to help relieve the labor shortage.
Here's the first training program of its kind offered by a premium automotive manufacturer for military service members directly on a U.S. military base.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.