Tech school recruits N-C students

In an economic climate filled with unemployed citizens, tech graduates are finding jobs.

The Universal Technical Institute — which recruits area high school students to its schools in Mooresville and 11 other locations across the nation — landed jobs for four out of five of its graduates in automotive, motorcycle, and other technician roles in recent years.

UTI trains technicians in the automotive, motorcycle, marine, diesel and collision repair industries. Some UTI graduates are coming from high schools in Catawba County and are being trained in programs like the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville.

“We are training students in a motor industry that can’t be outsourced to other countries. People need their cars and machines fixed here,” said UTI Admissions Representative Mike Foster. “We can’t function without transportation.”

Foster, who lives in Hickory, is one of 160 representatives who travel to high schools around the nation to recruit high schoolers. On Tuesday, he was at Newton-Conover High School, one of 82 schools he visits in the region.

He spoke with more than 60 students about UTI as well as all post-secondary options after high school.

Dozens of students expressed interest in the institute’s programs — numbers Foster said are consistent from school to school. He follows up with interested students after the first meet and acts as their “recruiter” throughout the process to UTI.

Collin Minor, a sophomore at Newton-Conover, has always had an interest in cars.

“I’m still not really sure what I want to do after school, but I know I want to do something hands on and it is helping me narrow things down,” Minor said. “The NASCAR and automotive (programs) sounded the most interesting.”

Teachers say there is a long list of area students interested in technician-related fields, but those students lack automotive programs in high school to carry out their learning. They say technical institutes like UTI give students another option after high school.

“A lot of students say, ‘I can’t afford to go to college,' but this is an affordable turnaround that could maybe put them in a job in two years,” said Susan Ramsey, a drafting instructor at Newton-Conover. “Auto colleges can almost guarantee employment because we all have cars.”

In recent years, UTI has had success placing its students in jobs.

In 2009, for instance, out of about 10,800 graduates, about 8,200 found employment (or about 81 percent).

Foster said a lot of UTI’s job placement success is a result of the relationships the school has with potential employers in the automotive, motorcycle, diesel and other related industries. UTI has Manufacturer Specific Advanced Training, for instance, that allows students to become specially trained in BMW, MINI, Porsche, Volvo and other brands — specific training Foster says employers look for.

UTI also gives all students hands-on experience in whatever field they choose. The institute’s Marine Mechanics program in Florida, for example, allows students to drive boats, work on engines and intern in marinas.

The institute also offers the same services as a major university or community college. Students can apply for financial aid and Pell grants just like at any other university, and UTI also awards scholarships every year.

In addition, the institute has counselors that help with student services as well as employment in and after college.

Technical institutes like UTI may not be for everyone, but Foster says they will survive during a time when outsourcing has stripped jobs from the region.

“People don’t send their cars to other countries because the check engine light is on,” Foster said. “There are career fields right now that require a physical presence.”

For more information on UTI, visit

More about the school
UTI has schools in 11 states, including an automotive and NASCAR institute in Mooresville. For more information on UTI, visit