CROWNPOINT, NM – Several of Navajo Technical University’s academic programs have obtained national accreditation in recent years that have distinguished NTU as one of the premier higher education institutions in the Southwest. The university will next seek to attain national accreditation through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) for its Automotive Technology program, a process that has been four years in the making.
“Employers want to hire students from a NATEF institution. It helps students find a job,” explained NTU’s Dean of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Casmir Agbaraji. “If your program is accredited, it’s a way to identify that students are receiving high quality instruction.”
NATEF is an independent non-profit organization that operates in all fifty states and evaluates technician training programs against standards developed by the automotive industry. It then has the ability to recommend qualifying programs accreditation. The NATEF model establishes three levels of accreditation based on the number of tasks required for students to perform, the number of instructional hours, and instructor qualifications. The three levels under NATEF include: Maintenance and Light Repair (MLR), Automobile Service Technology (AST), and Master Automobile Service Technology (MAST).
NTU is pursuing accreditation under AST, which the university began in 2015 while applying for a Carl Perkins grant. As a result, the university has revised its Automotive Technology curriculum and upgraded its certificate program to an Associate of Applied Science degree under the Higher Learning Commission. NTU has also invested $200,000 in tools and equipment and has renovated the Automotive Technology classroom building to include a tool room with a lock, a fence around its perimeter, and a freshly painted floor.
The hardest requirement NTU has had to address to fulfill NATEF requirements is hiring an additional faculty member to assist instructor and program advisor Steve Kollas with the program’s expanded instructional content. Kollas and the Automotive Technology program went three years without filling the position before Shanidiin Piechowski-Begay was hired last spring after previously working for Utah State University.
“I decided to come back and give back to my community,” stated Piechowski-Begay, who is originally from Ganado, AZ and has over eight years working in an auto shop, the off-road industry, and his own private business. Piechowski-Begay also has experience working as a project assistant at Utah State where he also served as an instructor in the classroom. “My goal is to make our students prepared to go into the auto industry so when they go out there trying to make it on their own, they can make money. “The students are my motivation,” Piechowski-Begay continued.
NTU is expected to complete the paperwork for accreditation by the end of the year. NTU would then invite a NATEF visiting team to campus by February 2020, and if all goes well, begin functioning as a NATEF accredited program next fall. For more information about NTU’s Automotive Technology program, contact Steve Kollas at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit NTU’s website at www.navajotech.edu