Jamie Walker graduated from Greenville Technical College's GM-ASEP program 20 years ago. Now he teaches in the automotive program because he wants to give something back while continuing to perform automatic transmission work and diesel repair for Smith Chevrolet.
Walker says only a portion of his class is students hoping to pursue an automotive career. Others are people who want to be able to work on their own cars or learn more about their hobby. Both types of students are rewarding to teach.
"The ones who are really absorbing it make you feel good about what you've accomplished," Walker said.
Greenville Technical College's automotive facilities have changed a lot since Walker was a student with the opening of the 170,000- square-foot McKinney Regional Automotive Technology Center and its 19 multi-media equipped classrooms, computer labs, offices, and teaching facilities.
The number of programs has increased quite a bit, too. Today, students can choose from Auto Body, Automotive, Diesel, and Motorsports programs along with educational partnerships with General Motors, Nissan/Infiniti and now Southeast Toyota.
Walker said the facilities are excellent, but it's the instructors who really make the difference. "One of the best tools at Greenville Tech is the instructors," Walker said. "It's one thing to know how to do something. It's another to show someone how to do it and figure out the best way for that student to learn."
Walker's reward is seeing students succeed in the workplace. Out of the last class, he had two students who struggled with English but pushed themselves hard to learn automotive skills. "Those guys - they didn't care how long they had to stay," he said. "Their main focus was learning the material. Both of them wound up getting jobs in the transmission field."
Jason Owens was working in the textile industry and decided he needed something with more security. When he heard about Greenville Technical College's Motorsports program
, he saw the chance to turn a longtime hobby into a great living.
Owens had been working with several race teams at the Greenville Pickens Speedway, but once he became a student, he realized he had much to learn.
"When I came into the program, I realized I didn't know what I was doing. Until I took the marketing and chassis fabrication classes, I was way off," he said. "It blew my mind. I learned about the stuff I was missing and what I could have done that would have been so much better."
The experience the instructors bring to the classroom is, Owens said, a big part of the learning experience. "The instructors all have years of motorsports experience - anything from NASCAR to road racing to drag racing," he said. "It's a top-notch program."
Now Owens is working to promote Hooters Pro Cup Series races on a radio show. He finished the Motorsports program in May and is broadening his skill base with automotive classes. His dream job upon graduation would be anything to do with racing, a goal he believes he can reach.
He cites the example of a fabricator, who came to Greenville Technical College and completed one class - the chassis fabrication class. Thanks to that class, the student got a job with Roush Racing. "It's a mega-job," Owens said. "And he got that as a result of Greenville Tech."