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Army Vet and UTI Grad Miguel Ortiz Shows the Power of Hard Work

Oct 15, 2021 ·

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When the time comes to retire from the military, some can feel unsure about what they want to do next. The transition from one lifestyle to another can present challenges and uncertainty, but this wasn’t the case for long for Miguel Ortiz.

As a graduate of Universal Technical Institute’s Automotive Technology program and the BMW Service Technician Education Program (STEP), Miguel was able to find purpose and passion after 20 years of military service.

Keep reading to find out how he discovered UTI and how the training he received benefited his career after re-entering the civilian world.

Making a Transition

Miguel Ortiz is familiar with hard work and sacrifice. A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, he was an infantryman who served two tours in Afghanistan. He retired in 2014, and soon the next chapter in his story began.

“I thought I would just be retired and wouldn’t do anything else,” he says of how he felt right after his military service ended. “That lasted just about eight months. I said, this ‘not doing anything’ isn’t working out for me.”

Although Miguel’s father had been a diesel mechanic and Miguel had grown up helping him and then tinkering on his own cars, the thought of attending UTI hadn’t crossed Miguel’s mind until he attended an orientation.

“One of my nephews was attending UTI and asked me to go to the orientation with him,” Miguel says. “I really liked what I heard from the presenters and enjoyed the tour around campus.”

This led Miguel to enroll in the Automotive Technology program at UTI’s campus in Orlando, Florida. He decided on this path because of the opportunity to take manufacturer-specific training with BMW,15 a brand that he had grown to love after being stationed in Germany for three years.

BMW Specialized Training

Getting into the BMW program was a competitive process that took a lot of hard work and dedication. Miguel was committed to getting into the program, so he made sure to ask his instructors what would help him have the best chances for success.

One of the biggest things they suggested was to focus on his grades. Miguel made sure he was in the top of his class and had the highest grades possible to have the best shot at being selected. He also had to pass tests to show proficiency in his skills.

When asked about the program, Miguel said it was challenging — both physically and mentally. “Those cars require a lot of patience and require a lot of experience when it comes to making repairs,” he says.

Despite the challenges, one moment from his BMW training stands out for Miguel. He recalls, “There were these special tools at BMW up on the walls. They weren’t labeled and kind of all over the place. I had a large break in time between one class and another, so I asked the director of the BMW program if it would be OK if I straightened up the boards. I took it upon myself to categorize and organize them.”

This is just one example of Miguel’s dedication and work ethic. During his time at UTI, he earned several recognitions, including excellent attendance, Student of the Course, Director’s List and a nomination to the honor society Alpha Beta Kappa.

Working in the Industry

The transition to the industry from UTI was a process that went smoothly for Miguel, thanks in part to his participation in the Early Employment Program.

The Early Employment Program allows students enrolled in select UTI programs the opportunity to apply for paid work experience from participating employers.36 Employers can also consider students for full-time employment, and some even offer reimbursement for loans or other education-related experience once a student has graduated.14

The program helped Miguel become an apprentice technician for Southern States TOYOTAlift. While the company wanted to hire Miguel full time after he graduated from UTI Orlando in 2016, he wanted to work as a BMW technician. Miguel was subsequently hired at Lauderdale BMW of Pembroke Pines.

After working as a BMW technician for four years, Southern States TOYOTAlift contacted Miguel again to let him know there was a service manager position available. He applied and got the position in September 2019, then got promoted in 2021 to branch operations manager.

When asked about his journey, Miguel says “None of this would have been possible without the knowledge and tools that UTI and the BMW STEP program gave me, which joined with a hard-working, disciplined and driven attitude, made me stand out and excel.” 6

A Relationship Past Graduation

Although it’s been some time since he graduated, Miguel remains involved and in touch with UTI.

He’s been a part of career fairs, working to help hire graduates directly from programs.1 He states that one of his goals is to “Build a really strong partnership with UTI. [I’d] like to have more days where I can show my value as an employer to students and have high-caliber students brought to me to hire before they even enter the workforce.”

Miguel wants to build a highly efficient team of technicians at his Southern States TOYOTAlift branch. He says that as more workers are aging out of the industry and retiring, building a force for the future with the same level of expertise is crucial.

The most important is knowledge you retain. You can be a great test-taker and look good on paper, but you need to be able to apply those skills. As a hiring manager, I look for a strong knowledge and application of technical skills and for someone who is willing to put in the work.
Miguel Ortiz, UTI grad and branch operations manager at Southern States TOYOTAlift

The advice Miguel offers to those interested in the field comes from both his experience as a technician and now as someone who is hiring employees. “How you look and present yourself conveys a sense of respect, capability and know-how,” he says.

Miguel adds, “The most important is knowledge you retain. You can be a great test-taker and look good on paper, but you need to be able to apply those skills. As a hiring manager, I look for a strong knowledge and application of technical skills and for someone who is willing to put in the work.”

Miguel spoke at UTI’s Service Day at UTI Orlando in May 2021. He shared his story with the entire campus and talked to many students. Former instructors also took the stage with him.

As a veteran, Miguel says it was a great experience to speak at the event. He added that “UTI was very helpful in giving information about the military services and financing options20 that were available.”

Start Your Next Chapter at UTI

Miguel’s story is an important one. It shows you can have success transitioning from one phase of life to another. Retiring from the military doesn’t mean you have to stop working — UTI can help make it possible to pursue another passion or interest as a civilian. With seven core programs to choose from, you can get hands-on training and an education at UTI that can help prepare you for the skilled trades.2

Miguel’s story is also a great example of how taking the time to invest in additional training can be beneficial. If you have a passion for a specific brand, learning more about diagnosing and repairing those vehicles can help you when applying to jobs after graduation. You can decide whether to advance further by taking manufacturer-specific training, like Miguel did when he enrolled in the BMW STEP program.

The BMW STEP program has been reintroduced at some UTI campuses as the BMW FastTrack program. The 12-week Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) program will provide students with intensive BMW-specific training focused on Workshop Technology, Electrical Technology, Chassis Technology and Drivetrain Technology.11

The BMW FastTrack program is offered at UTI campuses in Avondale, Arizona; Long Beach, California; Orlando, Florida; Exton, Pennsylvania; and Houston, Texas. Find out more by requesting information today!

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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

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.

11) See program details for eligibility requirements and conditions that may apply.

14) Incentive programs and employee eligibility are at the discretion of the employer and available at select locations. Special conditions may apply. Talk to potential employers to learn more about the programs available in your area. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation. Programs available at select locations.

20) VA benefits may not be available at all campus locations.

36) Students enrolled in select UTI programs are eligible to apply for the Early Employment Program. Participating employers will contact selected applicants to conduct interviews. Hiring, employee retention and compensation decisions are made solely by the prospective employer. Employer participation and program details are subject to change. For additional information, please contact Career Services. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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