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BMW STEP Program in Orlando Celebrates 100th Class

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Nov 5, 2019 ·

At UTI, our industry relationships provide students with the opportunity to train with cutting edge tools and technology and connect with companies hiring for exciting positions in the transportation industry. Students can also apply for manufacturer-specific advanced training programs—one of them being the BMW Service Technician Education Program (STEP).

Since its launch, the BMW STEP program has had incredible success. In fact, the UTI Orlando campus recently achieved a major milestone by celebrating its 100th class! Keep reading to learn all about the BMW STEP program, its most recent achievement and how the program prepares students for success in the workforce. 

The Relationship Between UTI and BMW

The relationship between UTI and BMW dates back to 1995. For more than 24 years, UTI has worked with BMW to graduate certified technicians qualified to work in BMW dealerships. In its first year, the BMW STEP program had just 15 graduates. This year, UTI is on track to supply 300 graduates.  

The longstanding relationship between UTI and BMW has been multifaceted. Over the years, BMW and UTI have had multiple different programs, including the MSTEP program for transitioning military members and the BMW STEP program. These programs benefit both organizations: BMW supplies the vehicles, tools and training support to keep UTI’s programs running, and BMW receives a steady stream of qualified technicians from UTI.  

About the BMW STEP Program

UTI’s 16-week BMW Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) program provides students with in-depth training on BMW vehicles. This is a manufacturer-paid program, meaning BMW pays for the training that is designed to prepare students for jobs in BMW dealers nationwide.

This program is for select UTI students who meet specific criteria: 

  • Core program training: Students must have a high school diploma or GED, in addition to completing UTI’s Automotive core program.
  • Grade point average (GPA): Those who wish to apply for the program must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout their core training.
  • Attendance: A 95% attendance rate in core classes is required.
  • Entrance exam: Students who want to apply for BMW STEP may be required to pass a written exam and in-person interview.
  • Driving record: STEP students must hold a valid driver’s license with no more than two moving violations within the past three years. Those with DUI convictions are not eligible for the program. 

This is a unique program that gives students the opportunity to learn from professionals who know what it takes to succeed in today’s industry. STEP instructors are trained by BMW so they can maintain specific training standards, and many come from BMW dealerships themselves. Because of their experience in the field, they are able to bring a real-world element into the classroom by training their students the same way they would train a new hire in the field.

The investment made by BMW to support this program is significant. In addition to providing the vehicles students work on, they continuously educate UTI on new models and technological advancements to ensure students are training on the latest and greatest.  

Perhaps one of the most unique elements of this program is the time students spend training in the workshop environment. According to Lutz Laukamp, CTG Advisor for BMW at UTI, 80% of the training students complete is done in the workshop, and 20% is spent in the classroom learning concepts.

Students in the program have access to BMW’s workshop service management systems so they can find diagrams and really dive into the course material. This is a student-driven program—meaning students have to do their own research and carry many of the same responsibilities that they would in a dealership. They work on real life vehicles and go as far as taking complete engines out and putting everything back together to make the car run. “It’s really nothing different than if they were to go work on a custom account,” says Lutz. 

The BMW STEP program is designed to graduate well-rounded technicians who are ready to take the next step in their career. According to Lutz, “We have to make sure that when they graduate, they are a suitable employee for a BMW dealership. After they leave here, that’s what they will do next.” 

Celebrating the BMW STEP Program’s 100th Class in Orlando

The BMW STEP program at UTI Orlando has now graduated 100 classes of qualified technicians who are transforming the industry. So what has made this program so successful? 

According to Gary Uyematsu, National Technical Training Manager for BMW North America, the cooperation between BMW and UTI has been a key factor in the success of the program. “UTI has been a fantastic partner with us because we want the best,” he says. UTI and BMW work closely together to ensure the STEP program provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a BMW dealership.

The education completed by STEP students was created to closely mimic what they’ll experience in the field. Rather than sitting in the classroom all day, BMW STEP students gain valuable hands-on experience that directly translates to their future career. “When a student comes here for orientation, the student is really not a student anymore—they’re a technician in training, and we treat them like that,” says Lutz. 

From the moment they start their training, students are held to the same standards as a BMW technician. According to Lutz, “They are held accountable for what they do. They have to show up on time, and there is no sleeping in class. We have very high expectations.” 

Keeping Up with an Evolving Industry

It’s no secret that the automotive industry is evolving at a rapid rate—and BMW is among the manufacturers leading the charge.

As BMW continues to advance their technology and bring out new models, UTI has evolved right alongside them. BMW cycles out their inventory almost annually, which ensures students are working on the latest technology. “Our cars don’t resemble cars of the past. They may have four wheels and four doors, but if we look at everything else, there are hundreds of thousands of lines of codes that go through a car. To change a radio station, it’s a networking phenomenon,” Gary shares.

In order to keep up with the fast-paced automotive industry, the STEP program has evolved over the years. For example, several changes were made to the program in 2014. In years past, students would spend a significant amount of time in the classroom. However, most of the classroom time was eliminated from the program in 2014. “Our programs have to change with what’s in front of us,” Gary says.

Instead of sitting in class listening to a PowerPoint presentation, students play an active role in their learning. “When they come to us, we give them an empty binder with empty pages. When they leave the program, this binder is full, and the pages are full. They basically create their own training material,” Lutz shares.

Students in the program also have the opportunity to become familiar with the platforms they’ll use in their careers. UTI has computers with a time management system, which students use to sign on just like they would at a dealership. This improves their time management skills—which are incredibly important in the dealership setting. 

When students graduate, they are ready to go to work with a mentor at a dealership, where they will learn the day-to-day operations and eventually be on their own. “In the end, we want the student to become a self-sufficient, proficient technician at the dealership,” says Lutz.

Setting Grads Up for Success in the Workforce

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the STEP program is being able to see the incredible things graduates achieve in their careers. “We have technicians who have graduated to be shop foreman, work in parts, sales, and in every level within those categories,” says Gary.

Many students from UTI Orlando keep in touch with Lutz long after they’ve left UTI. In fact, a new instructor and education supervisor were just hired at the Orlando campus, both of whom are former students of Lutz and graduates of STEP’s 56th class. 

“It’s really unlimited. No matter which direction you take, whether it’s at the dealership level, BMW North America level or at the UTI level, there are opportunities. STEP students are everywhere,” says Lutz.

Both Gary and Lutz agree that the demand for technicians is high. “There is such a high demand for technicians, and there’s even a higher demand for skilled technicians,” Gary says. In the most recent graduating class of the STEP program, everyone had a job lined up on graduation day except for two students. A week later, one had a job, and the next week, the other student landed a job.

The placement rate for STEP graduates is incredible. Just in the past few weeks, Lutz has received roughly 12 inquiries from dealerships looking for technicians in the Florida area. This growing demand led UTI to add a third class in the afternoon, which will increase the output of students and help to fill the skills gap in the industry.

In the end, those who have a passion for this industry are the ones who really shine. “You have to love the product,” says Gary. He shares that many technicians who decide to train on BMW’s technology stay with the company for a long time, because they love the vehicles. According to him, “It’s not just training to be a technician, it’s training for a career path.”

Congratulations to the UTI Orlando campus for reaching this incredible milestone! To learn more about BMW STEP and stay updated on all things related to the program, check out the links below:

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