Fifteen Years of Progress for
The National Automotive Technician Education Foundation
By: Byrl R. Shoemaker, Ph.D., NATEF Consultant
My term of membership on the ASE Board and my
retirement from the Division of Vocational and Career Education
came at the same time, June 30, 1982. Within 30 days I was ready
to go back to work at something and my wife was encouraging
me to get out of her domain. Then a marvelous thing happened.
asked me to visit the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
in Atlanta and evaluate a proposed pattern developed for improving
the quality of automotive training programs across the nation.
The development of the material for program improvement
was motivated by the Industry Planning Council (IPC) of the
American Vocational Association. The IPC included equal numbers
of representatives from both the automotive industry and instructors
or administrators from automotive training programs. In 1978
the IPC determined that automotive training programs needed
to be significantly improved in order to provide the entry level
The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association (MVMA)
provided $400,000, over a several year period, to develop the
necessary task and equipment lists and evaluation guide to serve
as the basis for program improvement. The Southern Association
of Colleges and Schools did the work under contract to the IPC.
Upon completion of the above listed material, the IPC asked
ASE to take over the responsibility of administering a program
At the suggestion of then retiring, ASE President,
Herb Furman, I was requested to visit the Southern Association
and review the material. Glad to be involved in a project which
I believed, and still believe, to be important to the industry
and education, and glad to get out of the house, I visited the
Southern Association and found the evaluation guide, task and
equipment lists in excellent order. There was not available,
however, any process for evaluation or standards by which to
Before making any recommendation to the ASE Board,
I conducted a brief market study with automotive instructors
and administrators over the nation. I determined there was interest
in a certification process but the cost needed to be economical,
since most school systems did not provide funds for certifications
outside of licensed occupations. Appearing before the ASE Board,
I recommended the Board accept the opportunity to establish
a certification plan for automotive training programs, even
though the program would not be self supporting. It was further
suggested that all materials become property of the ASE Board.
The ASE Board voted to accept the responsibility
for establishing a certification program, using the materials
developed by the IPC committee, providing the material owned
by MVMA would become the property of ASE.
The MVMA approved the granting of the evaluation
material to ASE and subsequently the ASE Board accepted a gift
of a 501 (c)-(3) Foundation (the National Automotive Technicians
Education Foundation, NATEF) from the Automotive Service Association
(ASA), that would permit organizations to make tax deductible
contributions to NATEF as a means of supporting the certification
program. A NATEF Board of Trustees was established to direct
the effort to develop a certification program and to accept
gifts and grants relating to it. I was employed as a consultant
to guide the development of the certification program. The major
initial grant to NATEF came from the MVMA itself, along with
smaller grants from such organizations as ASA.
The first step, therefore, was to establish minimum
standards for certification of automotive programs. The standards
I proposed were patterned after the requirements for licensed
occupations and one of the key factors in all licensed occupations
is a minimum instructional time on tasks for each of the major
divisions of an occupation.
The major task in the development of the standards
was the establishment of the minimum hours of instruction for
each of the eight automobile areas (which paralleled the eight
ASE certification test areas for automobile technicians). A
committee met in Detroit to review a report that had been developed
after a national meeting on quality of automotive training sponsored
by Ford Motor Co. The instructional hours were reviewed and
adjusted, and recommended for adoption by the ASE Board, along
with other standards that have become the basis for program
One of the weak areas of those initial program
standards was the provision that any program could receive certification
for meeting standards in just one automobile training area.
This standard has increased over the years; a program must now
meet the standards in four specified areas (Suspension and Steering,
Brakes, Electrical/Electronic Systems, and Engine Performance).
From the beginning, the Board directed that any
public or private secondary or post-secondary program could
be certified, provided that they meet the same standards.
After the standards were developed, the next
big task was to establish the plan for reviewing programs for
I estimated there were approximately 2,400 automotive
programs across the nation. Direct contact with and promotion
for this many programs would be very difficult and costly to
accomplish.. The state leadership for vocational education and
both independent and dealership automotive service organizations
were contacted in each state. The state vocational education
leadership could then apply for participation, if the automotive
service organizations indicated their support.
The states with strong state leadership were
the first to apply for participation in the certification program.
All fifty states now participated in the certification program.
The first ASE certified programs in the nation were in Tri-County
Joint Vocational Center, Nelsonville, Ohio; Sheridan Vocational
Center, Hollywood, Florida; and Northeast Wisconsin Technical
College, Green Bay, WI.
As the certification procedure for automobile
technician training programs was growing to success, the employers
in the autobody industry requested that a certification program
be established for collision repair and refinish training programs
across the nation. Such an effort was initiated in 1988 and
certification for such programs began in 1990. Subsequently,
the employers of the medium/heavy truck technicians requested
the same service from ASE/NATEF and their program was initiated
in 1992. The standards for light/medium duty CNG/LPG programs
were developed with funds from a grant from the US Department
of Energy in response to the Energy Policy Act, and were released
The success of ASE certification in improving
the quality of the automobile technician training programs has
been the subject of three independent research studies. The
results from these studies have shown that students from an
ASE certified program achieved higher learning outcomes and
the programs had better placement of graduates.
I believe the certification effort initiated
by ASE should be the model for improvement of vocational/technical
programs at all levels of vocational/technical education. There
is a growing shortage of skilled workers in our nation and the
only recommendations coming from national industry organizations
suggest that we import such workers from other countries. This
nation is sending approximately 62% of its high school graduates
to college to prepare for professional jobs while only 18% of
the workforce is employed in such professions. Our economy cannot
prosper with such an imbalance and the social snobbery which
prevents individuals from training for honest, good paying jobs.
Looking back, I am amazed at the progress and
the consistent, strong support industry has provided the efforts
to improve entry-level training. The ASE Board never backed
away from its initial commitment to the new concept. The NATEF
Board of Trustees has taken the leadership responsibility assigned
to it by the ASE Board, and the members have been consistent
in their attention to the issues brought to them by the staff.
I remember: John Pohanka who gave so much of
his time and expertise as we began the venture; the leadership
of Ron Weiner, who placed his reputation on the line for the
program; the strong support of Lillian Bates, Bill Porento,
John Mack, Chuck Groves and many others too numerous to mention;
that Chrysler was the first to require that a program be ASE
Certified to receive an automobile for their training program.
I have considered it a privilege to have the opportunity to
be a part of something new, something worthwhile, something
on the cutting edge of a new era in training.
Finally, it has been a wonderful experience to
work with Ron Weiner, Joe Mills and the outstanding staff of
ASE. I have never worked with a more capable, professional or
caring group of people in my three careers covering about 59
The old order passes and gives way to the new.