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From the age of 2, Gerardo Mendez had an interest in cars. As a toddler, Gerardo played with Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks, and says he was always drawn to what would eventually become his future career.
Gerardo joins Universal Technical Institute (UTI) at its new Bloomfield, New Jersey, campus as an automotive technology instructor.
Gerardo teaches an introduction to undercar course, where students learn about safety features, inspection systems, springs, data-sf-ec-immutable=""> , struts and brake systems. He also teaches an electrical fundamentals course.
Gerardo has been learning about the intricacies of motor vehicles since he was a high school student, when his school offered automotive technology training.
The Chicago native, who moved to Wharton, New Jersey, when he was 1 year old, also took a weekend course for mobile technical training during his high school senior year.
He learned about mobile electronics installations, including remote starters, sound systems and navigation, the beginnings of what would turn into a now decade-long profession.
“I learned how to take things apart and put things back together and saw how everything worked,” says Gerardo. “A car has so many moving systems and components. I got really interested in them. Tearing up a car and putting it back together drew me in.” This is when Gerardo decided that he wanted to become automotive technician.
He went straight to UTI in Exton, Pennsylvania, after high school. Since graduating in 2008, he has worked for Audi and Porsche dealerships. When he saw the opportunity to teach at UTI in the state he had grown up in, he eagerly applied.
“I thought, what better way to put my two passions together – being in the automotive field and being able to pass on my knowledge and teach future technicians what I learned and what I experienced?” Gerardo says. “I can give back what I got.”
While Gerardo says he always knew he wanted a career in the automotive industry, he credits UTI for helping him succeed. He considered several trade schools offering automotive courses, but he says UTI always stood out.
“The professionalism and overall first impression of everyone I spoke to there was great, and everything seemed so organized,” Gerardo says. “I had seen other schools and spoken to people who had attended other schools, and there always seemed to be something negative. My goals matched with what UTI was offering.”
After his core automotive training, Gerardo enrolled in UTI’s Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) program for Audi.
He was employed and working at an Audi dealership within two weeks of graduation, coming in as an entry-level registered Audi technician and moving up the ranks to become an expert Audi technician. He went on to train other employees with Audi before working for a Porsche dealership, and later returned to work with Audi.
“I feel like UTI delivers the curriculum in a way that is what is expected in the field,” Gerardo says. “Your work while you're here as a student is like being out in the automotive field, having all the tools and equipment and books here.”
Gerardo adds that in addition to the technical aspect of UTI training, the career help that is available makes UTI beneficial.
“UTI takes you through the whole process, from learning the trade and professionalism, to getting help with résumés, job placements and interviews,” Gerardo says. “From start to finish, UTI is there, and even after, once you're in your career, if you ever need assistance.”
In addition to a love for cars, Gerardo has also enjoyed teaching. Besides helping up-and-coming technicians at the dealerships where he worked, Gerardo was an assistant instructor in Isshin-ryū, a form of karate. He taught one-on-one and in group settings, and he's excited to be in a classroom environment today.
“Being that I was a former UTI student, I have been in their shoes and can relate to what they're going through,” Gerardo says. “I really have a passion for teaching, seeing when a student grasps an idea, and seeing the smile on their face.”
Gerardo says he enjoys sharing what he has learned in the field and making personal connections with students, whether he can offer technical assistance, or have a laugh and be an instructor who students feel comfortable talking with.
As someone who has spent his life in New Jersey, Gerardo enjoys contributing to the community as a UTI instructor.
“Having a good automotive trade school in this area and so close to home is exciting,” Gerardo says. “I can be part of it and teach and see students as they graduate and move on in their careers. Being part of this community and the great team at UTI is something I look forward to.”
Gerardo encourages anyone who enjoys working with their hands, tearing things apart, and seeing how things work, to consider a career in automotive. When you study at UTI, you get access to the resources you need, no matter what your skill level is.
“The beautiful thing about UTI is that anyone can come in here with or without experience, and you're going to be in the right place to learn how to get it done,” Gerardo says. “You start with the fundamentals and move on from there. The staff and other students are supportive and helpful.”
For students who might be uncertain about their future after high school and for those who want to obtain more meaningful careers, Gerardo says UTI can help them find success.
“The automotive field is always in high demand, and it's not going to change anytime soon,” Gerardo says. “Employers are always looking for great technicians. From my personal situation, college isn't for everyone, but there are job opportunities for everyone. If you put your time and effort into it, there's no way to fail. Just go for it, and follow your dream.”
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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.