With his dad and two grandfathers all auto industry engineers, Matthew Wilke has loved getting his hands dirty since he was a little kid taking apart the cars they brought home to the family garage, analyzing and figuring out what made them tick. He’s now building on those early learned skills through the innovative Ford Motor Company’s ASSET program. Ford Careers ASSET Program.
“I always knew that I wanted to work with cars,” says the 23-year-old who is enrolled in Ford Motor Company’s innovative two-year career track program, Automotive Student Service Education Training (ASSET), at Henry Ford College in Dearborn. In the two-year program, students alternate between eight weeks in the hands-on classroom and eight weeks working alongside experts applying the knowledge at their sponsoring Ford or Lincoln dealer.
ASSET, which has been available to students for 38 years and has 41 locations nationwide, is a perfect choice for students who love cars, technology and computers in a field with a fast-growing demand, not only for gas-powered vehicles, but also the exciting and evolving EV technology, says Brendan Coursey, ASSET Coordinator for Ford Motor Company.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in the industry, including working in Ford and Lincoln dealerships. So for those that don’t want to go on and pursue a four-year college degree but do want some level of college experience, this is a great way to get into a dealership and make a lot of money and be successful for the future,” he says.
High in-demand career skills fostered at Ford Career ASSET Program
Wilke initially followed in his father’s footsteps to Michigan State University to study mechanical engineering. But two years in, he decided that just wasn’t the path for him. With his family’s support, he followed his true passion to work on cars and feels lucky he found ASSET and instructor Kristopher Young.
“My passion is really the diagnostics. I love solving puzzles,” says Wilke, who grew up in the Beverly Hills/Southfield area and is sponsored by a Southfield Ford dealer. “When something goes wrong, I like having the opportunity to solve that puzzle and figure out where it went wrong and why it went wrong and then figure out how to solve it and fix that.”
He says he especially likes the quick pace of ASSET that lets him learn and apply that knowledge almost immediately.
“Getting into ASSET and an automotive technology program, it just fed into all of that passion I had when I was a kid working on cars in the garage and now I get to do it for a career and make really good money from it,” Wilke says.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the median annual wage for automotive service technicians at $46,880, but Coursey says ASSET graduates quickly earn more than that. Wilke says top technicians around metro Detroit can earn $80,000-$120,000.
“This program opens a lot of doors because of the amount of material that’s covered. You can be a technician in a dealership and build a career around that. There are people at my dealer that make an incredible living wrenching on cars all day. That’s a very lucrative position to have,” Wilke says.
Ford ASSET program sets up student success
Coursey says ASSET gives students an excellent foundation in automotive service technology. Also all of their Ford credentials and certifications. They are ready to work full-time in a Ford or Lincoln dealership upon graduation. “I think you can’t substitute that experience. They’re walking out with a job, too.”
Students are paid when working at their sponsoring dealership. Scholarships are available. In many instances, dealerships have a tuition reimbursement plan to cover the cost of the program upfront.
“All things considered, it’s the best option not only for affordability, but for the comprehensiveness of the training itself. Ford ASSET offers up to 100% of our Ford curriculum, which is more comprehensive than any other Ford-sponsored program that we have,” he says.
Plus, interest in cars isn’t mandatory. Some students just like working with their hands, he says. And because vehicles have so much technology, particularly with the evolving EV technology, students interested in computers or information technology also find their place in ASSET.
“We do want to have a program that caters to all the different levels of ambitions. We have many examples of ASSET graduates who work as a service technician for a few years and then maybe switch over to be a service advisor or the shop foreman and, in some cases, they go on to be the service manager,” Coursey says.
“ASSET is designed to take someone in with no prior knowledge and over two years prepare them to be successful as an automotive service technician.”
Class StartsFall 2024
The next class opens at Henry Ford College in fall 2024. Coursey says there’s no reason not to get some experience at a local Ford or Lincoln dealer. Then join the class next year. Expect it to fill up quickly, given the reputation of instructor Kristopher Young and the program itself, he says.
“Kris Young, the program director who’s also the instructor, is phenomenal. He’s one of our best, and he just really runs a great comprehensive program there and most of our dealers are aware of it.”
Together, Young and ASSET set students up for success, he says.
“We truly believe in it, and it’s really shaped the successful lives of well over 12,000 graduates now and many of them are still working at the Ford and Lincoln dealers and they’re very happy,” he says. “If you can find a career you’re happy with that you can make a comfortable living in, then that’s a really good thing, and that’s what we try to offer.”
That’s what Wilke is seeking.
Wilke’s advice to other students looking for their next step after high school: “Find your passion and run for it. If you have a passion working on cars and diagnosing, then this is the way to go. If this is your passion, take it and run with it because it is something that pays off.”
Source: Ford Careers ASSET Program
Find out more about the Ford ASSET program and find an open seat at newfordtech.com/Programs/ASSET/Overview.