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Automotive Instructor David Watkins Teaches UTI Students How to Succeed

"They need to want to be here to learn, show determination, and be on time. They need to stay focused, stay motivated and ask plenty of questions."


Growing up, David Watkins came from a family of three brothers. But his father, a builder, never pressured him or his siblings to follow in his footsteps. In fact, his dad recognized David’s mechanical inclinations towards nuts and bolts rather than nails and boards. Instead of pressuring him to become a builder he encouraged David to tinker with lawn mowers and other small engines. As he got older and more experienced, he was soon working on the larger engines of cars.

“I had no interest in the family business and he showed me I had some mechanical talents and that’s where it all started.”

Today, as an auto instructor at UTI Orlando, he teaches the “Engines” class, which is one of the first classes that students experience. He understands where these students are coming from, and in the same way that his father encouraged him, he gives this same support to his class.

“Everybody starts somewhere. Nobody is born with a wrench in their hands. Once you start that dialog new students open up and become more comfortable in asking questions.”

Every student comes into the program with their own level of experience. Some have been turning a wrench for years. Others may be starting at ground zero. David is there to guide and encourage learning in his students no matter what their background is.

“One student told me, ‘I think I made a mistake by coming here.’ I was like – what’s going on? He said that he didn’t know anything, and I told him, that’s okay. I didn’t know anything when I got started.”

From his modest beginnings to his 30 years of work at Chrysler, David has an expert level of skills and knowledge. Some people with this level of experience may take on an air of superiority. But instead, David is humble and generous in sharing what he knows. He wants to give his knowledge so that all students can have the chance to succeed no matter what level they’re starting out at.

“Some people have a bit more talent and some people need a bit more encouragement. As an instructor you have to teach several different ways. Sometimes a different approach is the best way for a particular student.”

David believes that encouragement is as valuable as theory. Once students realize that someone is there to support and help them they tend to become more relaxed. Some may feel a block in learning because of the initial amount of information. But David thinks that once they get past this they become more open to the coursework and less intimidated.

“All of a sudden you see the light bulbs go off and they’re understanding how what they’re looking at works. It’s nice to see that. It’s satisfying for the student and also really satisfying as an instructor to see that discovery.”

Many students feel overwhelmed about the amount of information they need to know. David helps teach the foundation of the things they’ll experience in the field. And like building muscle memory, his goal is to give them the ability to react to situations automatically.

“Students may start out thinking that there’s too much to learn – that there isn’t any way they could know all of this. And sometimes you don’t remember everything, but when you get into the field it all comes back to you.”

David is dedicated to the success of his students and he also feels that students should have this same commitment to their education.

“They need to want to be here to learn, show determination, and be on time. They need to stay focused, stay motivated and ask plenty of questions.”

David has come a long way since his humble beginnings messing around with the family’s lawnmower. But with 30 years in the industry he has never lost the connection to how he felt at the beginning of his career journey. He understands where he came from, and that helps him better teach and build up the next generation of mechanics.

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