A Look Inside OTC at 40

Dec 1, 2009

In any tight economy, finding well-rounded employees is of major importance to many companies-and particularly smaller businesses such as speed shops that might be lean on staff but still need to satisfy customer demands.

And with automotive technology changing faster than the price of gas, businesses also need leaders who understand the latest industry advancements.

Automotive students who receive classroom knowledge paired with hands-on training are a step ahead of other potential employees. Businesses can count on them to not only know up-to-date vehicle repair and enhancement techniques, but also to understand the many intricacies of quality customer service.

Among the automotive schools providing this type of education is Ohio Technical College in Cleveland. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, OTC is a family-owned school dedicated to providing technical automotive training.

The school offers high-performance and racing classes, among others, and includes hands-on training in efforts such as building a race car in order to prepare students for real-world jobs in the racing and performance aftermarket.

Variety of Offerings

Drawing students from all over the country, OTC is an Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) college that allows students to choose from more than 20 technician trainingprograms in Automotive, Diesel, Auto-Diesel, Collision Repair, Classic Car Restoration and PowerSport Technology, as well as specialization in High-Performance and Racing, BMW, Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Custom Paint and Graphics, CDL Truck Driver Training, Power Generator Systems and Welding.

Students at OTC not only get in-depth training in specialized areas, but also an overall automotive education during the school’s 18-month program.

OTC opened in 1969 as the Ohio Diesel Mechanics School, conducting six-week diesel training courses in Cleveland’s warehouse district. Founded by Julius Brenner, the school experienced the first of its many growth spurts in 1971 as the demand for diesel tech training grew rapidly, and students soon moved into a larger facility to accommodate proper equipment.

Since the early ’70s, the school hasn’t stopped expanding, changing its name several times-first to the Ohio Diesel Technical Institute, then to Ohio Auto/Diesel Technical Institute and the Ohio Auto Diesel Technical College-before deciding on Ohio Technical College in September 1997 to reflect its mission to provide premier technical training in the world of modern mechanics.

It has since transformed from a single, second-floor building location to an 800,000-square-foot campus in two Ohio cities.

OTC has grown over the past 40 years to meet the ever-changing demands of today’s automotive businesses. One major initiative was the Associate of Technical Studies in Automotive and Diesel, which was approved in 1994 to add well-rounded academic credentials and help graduates advance to management positions.

Today, OTC offers a comprehensive Automotive Training Program-an ASE Master Certified curriculum that covers everything from automotive basics to the most technologically advanced topics and allows for a specialization in several areas, including High-Performance and Racing.

The School for Speed

The school’s High-Performance and Racing program is an example of how motorsports and performance automotive companies can reach out to future members of this industry.

OTC’s first High-Performance and Racing classes began in 2003-complete with an in-ground dynamometer-and since then faculty members have worked to pursue beneficial manufacturing partnerships and race-related programs that can give students a real-world education.

The original single-classroom setting has moved into a large, 2,000-square-foot building and a new fabrication and chassis shop is currently under construction.

“This allows the students to learn about welding and how to perform aluminum and steel fabrication work,” explains Ed Hofstrom, high-performance director at OTC. “The students get to work on putting street rods, drag cars, road race cars and even NASCAR chassis cars together.”

The High-Performance and Racing course currently provides intense training on the following subjects:

  • High-Performance Fuel Systems
  • High-Performance Ignition & Braking
  • Race Car Suspension Development
  • Forced Air Induction
  • HP Cooling, Lubrication and Fuels
  • HP Automatic Transmissions

But it’s not all work and no play at OTC. Students recently teamed with Mazda to build a race car and serve at its pit crew for The Longest Day of Nelson: 24 Hour Endurance Event.

Mazda was the first import carmaker to get involved with Ohio Technical College, providing the school with a complete MX-5 body in white, along with MAZDASPEED components, to allow students to build a race car in the same manner as professional race shops.

Students began the project with a 2007 stock MX-5, which was upgraded with aftermarket performance components including: Koni coil-over suspension; Wiseco pistons; ACT racing clutch; Enkei RPF1 wheels; Carbotech brake pads; Sparco Pro 2000 race seat and six-point safety harness; Staubli dry-break refueling system; and MAZDASPEED competition radiator and headers.The vehicle was prepped for Nelson, the world’s oldest 24-hour endurance race for amateur racers of production-based SCCA showroom stock automobiles that premiered in 1980, and students who built the car from the ground-up had the opportunity to experience the entirety of careers available within the High-Performance and Racing industries.

A total of 70 students from three different classes worked on the MX-5, which placed second in its class and third overall in the Nelson’s Ledges event. The youthful pit crew worked on everything from installing roll cages to maintenance on the track.

“Our students were taught professionalism, sportsmanship and how to work with a team, which is the educational experience of a lifetime,” says Tom King, director of enrollment management at OTC. “They represented Ohio Technical College to the highest level, and for many this event was just the beginning of their racing careers.”

Race-Day Education

Additional motorsports participation by students includes serving as the pit crew for three drag cars in the Hooter’s Cup Series; working with Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Wayne Mellinger; and learning how to tear-down and rebuild National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel Cars from experts.

Hofstrom says the school is also fortunate to have two NASCAR truck chassis on loan from NASCAR track inspector Tom Richards, again allowing students an authentic learning experience.

Proper safety training is important as well, which is why OTC brings in a local safety inspector from Race Threads in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, to demonstrate safety with roll cages and related equipment.

OTC’s High-Performance and Racing Program-traditionally a 12-week course-now has 60 students enrolled. But big changes are ahead for the program, which was enhanced this summer into a full, 18-month program solely focused on high-performance, motorsports and race technology.

“Within the 12-week program, you can only get an overview of all the intricate automotive components and technologies within this segment of the industry, so we’re excited to be able to teach a curriculum that develops more technical students who are capable of going out and getting jobs in racing venues,” notes Hofstrom, who adds that former students have landed jobs with Skip Barber Racing School and machine shops across the country.

Newly purchased buildings and houses are being converted into classrooms and parking lots to expand the campus footprint. Most recently, the school’s branch campus PowerSports Institute (PSI) moved into a 210,000-square-foot facility in nearby North Randall, Ohio, to provide technical training on motorcycles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft, ATVs and more.

And the school just keeps growing. Today, more than 1,000 students are enrolled and 190 full-time staff is employed at OTC, and the High-Performance and Racing Program continues to churn out top-notch students that will support this industry in the future.

To learn more about the High-Performance and Racing Program or other areas of OTC, visit www.ohiotechnicalcollege.com.