By on March 11, 2009

My brother fixes industrial machinery for a living. The range of skills he needs—mechanical, electronic, hardware, software, CNC stuff, as well as troubleshooting abilities—makes that kind of work as technically demanding as just about any job there is. You can’t learn to do what he does in a university. So for-profit ventures like ITT Technical Institute, Universal Technical Institute, New Horizons computer training centers and others fill a needed role. It’s understandable also that during difficult economic times those schools would market themselves aggressively to people looking for new career opportunities. There’s a fine line, of course, between providing educational opportunity and exploiting people’s desperation about the economy.

Universal Technical Institute and its affiliated schools (e.g., Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, Marine Mechanic Institute, and NASCAR Technical Institute are reputable institutions. They have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and I wasn’t able to find any consumer complaints online from disgruntled students. They provide certified technician training programs for major automobile and motorcycle companies like BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Porsche, so UTI is obviously not a schlock outfit.

UTI is also a major advertiser on the Fox-owned SpeedTV cable network. UTI advertises and arranges product placement on SpeedTV shows as well as buys big chunks of time for infomercials. During the Daytona 500 weekend and Speed Week coverage on SpeedTV, UTI ran an ad for their NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC. UTI advertises that students get training on the latest technologies and up-to-date technical information from the auto companies with which UTI works. The NTI training may be up-to-date, but the ad that UTI is running is so out-of-date that it makes them look out of touch and incompetent.

UTI stresses successful job placement in their advertising. The NASCAR Technical Institute ad currently running on Speed, though, is oblivious to the changes in NASCAR due to the economic crisis. With all the team mergers, consolidations and technical partnerships, at least 1000 employees of NASCAR teams have been laid off. Jeremy Mayfield raced his way into the Daytona 500 this year with a team made up entirely of people laid off from other race teams. Meanwhile, NTI keeps talking about all the opportunity there is for entry level jobs with NASCAR teams.

The NTI ad features Kyle Petty talking about how Petty Enterprises has six graduates of NTI working for them. Now I like Kyle Petty. Growing up in the shadow of a legendary grandfather and a superstar father, he’s managed to be his own man and has done a lot of good with the Victory Junction Gang camps.

The ad had to have been filmed some time ago because Petty Enterprises no longer exists as a race team. One of the aforementioned mergers was a deal Richard Petty made with Gillett Evernham Racing, which is now known as Richard Petty Motorsports. The Petty race shop has been closed since the end of last year, all the employees have been laid off and the team’s assets have been liquidated. The racing team Lee Petty started is no longer and King Richard is leasing his face and name to George Gillett Jr., who has deep enough pockets to fund a competitive team.

Like I said, Kyle’s not the bad guy. Just like the six NTI graduates that used to work at Petty Enterprises, Kyle’s out of a NASCAR job. He’s not racing at Daytona for the first time in 30 years. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the residual payments from NTI for doing the ad, but it must be a little embarrassing for him to watch the ad while the Speed announcers keep mentioning the economic changes in NASCAR.

UTI isn’t a bad guy either. I spoke to Valerie Monaco, head of public relations for UTI and she said that she’d check with their advertising production team and get back to me. I made it clear that I didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, just that the situation had changed and the ad made NTI look silly.  She pointed out that ad buys for events like Daytona Speed Week are made well in advance and as is advertising. I have to say that Monaco kept considerable good humor for someone who was just told that her employer looked foolish.

I’m sure the ad buys were done a long time ago. I’m also sure that UTI wants to keep ad production costs down, but considering how this ad undermines their credibility, I think they’d at least consider pulling it. UTI isn’t trying to be deceptive here, they’re just not on the ball. The people they are marketing NTI to are knowledgeable NASCAR fans and know what’s happened with Petty Enterprises so the ads aren’t doing NTI any good.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

18 Comments on “Editorial: NASCAR’s Technical School for Scandal...”


  • avatar
    qfrog

    Attending one of these technical institutes or schools does not a competent technician make. I’ve met a number of folks fresh out of these places that are competent and were ready to learn a specific product. Yet I don’t think those people were somehow molded by these schools into competent technicians. Actually I suspect that the folks that are competent were more or less so prior to attending such schools.

    I’ve also met a number of individuals fresh from whatever technical school that were far from stellar. One guy in particular said they didn’t teach him CV joints. Um… what? But wait, they did teach him drum brakes.

    I’ve heard enough technicians pan these schools to question just how relevant the training really is. The stories I’ve heard ranged from shady enrollment practices to teaching outdated/useless information. I’ve also heard that one may be contractually bound to working for a dealership for a period of time.

    You want the real story on these schools… go talk to technicians at dealerships. See how many volunteer a glowing recommendation.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    You can’t learn to do what he does in a university.

    Yep, university is reserved for the engineers who actually design the machinery, equipment, electronics, and software!

    As an engineer, I had to give the jab! Good article.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Not at a university, but possibly, at less cost and locally, at a community college.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Very well researched piece, Ronnie. The detailed and dead accurate information on the Petty’s and NASCAR probably took hours to dig out and to flow nicely into your article.

    Very well done indeed.

    Son of a friend when through the course on dad’s dime, worked at a few shops and decided he really did not like working on cars.

    All of dad’s money? Poof!

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I knew Kyle Petty. I can honestly say he’s the biggest excuse making S.O.B. in racing. Petty Enterprises, under Kyle’s leadership, have screwed over more employees and drivers than any other team. It was common for Kyle Petty to “clutch” an engine, after running several laps down, just to bad mouth the guys in the shop on national television. Whenever I see Kyle on TV, I want to punch a kitten.

    As far a UTI’s Nascar Technical Institute, the majority of graduates will start off washing parts in the tear-down room for the first year. Nothing wrong with that, but just be prepared to spend your days standing at a varsol tank.

  • avatar
    cmus

    That commercial has been playing unchanged for at least 4 years. I was surprised to see it still running, considering the out-of-dateness.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    “Meanwhile, NTI keeps talking about all the opportunity there is for entry level jobs with NASCAR teams.”

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t any jobs available. Maybe NASCAR has gotten to be like the big box retail world…take all your full-time experienced employees and fire them, then bring in a bunch of cheaper paid part-timers with no benefits.

    (oddly enough there’s a UTI ad at the top of the page as I’m typing this)

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    I have always thought that all the career training schools that are adverstised on cable are scams. They look like they are designed to con the desperate into taking out student loans. Heck, lower tier law schools are the same sort of scam.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Yep, university is reserved for the engineers who actually design the machinery, equipment, electronics, and software!

    As an engineer, I had to give the jab! Good article.…

    As an engineer (electrical), I got a chuckle out of your response. However, don’t underestimate what it takes to troubleshoot modern cars. Loads of ECU’s, BCM’s, CAN networks, multiplex wiring, etc, means the potential for some serious complexity. Much of what I read in shop manuals/technical bulletins read like what I dealt with in engineering school. It really is a shame that technicians are not paid what they deserve, nor do they get the respect that their schooling and knowledge warrant. The “dumb” mechanic stereotype persists…

  • avatar
    MBella

    As a mechanic, I have to fix the problems you engineers create, rpn453.

    These schools are so overpriced for what they offer. I went to one for a semester, and spent over $10k when you included their overpriced dorms. I finished my associates at a local community college, that ironically is rated higher by NATEF, ASE’s educational division. I probably spent less than $10K the whole time I was there. I even took classes that had nothing to do with my degree, just for the general knowledge. I had to get my bachelors from a real university though. Talk about the real scam.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    It is not just the Technical for profit schools that play this game.

    I’ve read accounts of people who go to one of these and rack up $60-80k of student load debt only to discover that their sham degree is almost worthless.

    There are similar ones for Fashion Design, Criminal Justice, etc. They are effectively a non-accredited extremely overpriced junior college with a big marketing budget. Right now these schools are paying $25-100 dollars per lead. Navigating the job hunt jungle I’ve seen all sorts of outfits that use a sham job opening to try and get your personal info to sell to them.

    Most of the major long-haul trucking companies offer a similar indentured servitude contract for their training puppy mill. You sign a contract to work for them and get a CDL. If you quit or are fired before the year is up you owe them $4-6k. Paying out of pocket the real cost is $2-3k for a good 3-4 week program.

  • avatar
    homer

    Qfrog, RedStapler, and no_slush have it exactly right- we should all be extremely skeptical of the for-profit education industry, which combines the sleaziness of infomercials with the irresponsibility fostered by government sponsored loan programs.

    A man named Billy Mays and his buddies have realized that they can take a commonly available hardware store product, rename it “MIGHTY PUTTY”, and sell it for 5 times as much by putting it right in front of the noses of couch potatos on late night television.

    The same exact same strategy is being employed by these “schools”; entrepeneurs have realized that they can take a commonly available community college education, and outrageously inflate the price by relying on agressive, (dishonest?) marketing. To add insult to injury, the education you get from people who are just wringing dollars out of student loan programs is bound to be lower quality than what you are likely to get from actual Educators.

    Its sad to see that in the wake of the mortgage bubble, new preditors are brewing up the familiar recipe of government-subsidized financing and aggressive/deceptive marketing. Its especially painful to think that the economic crisis caused in part by predatory marketing of government-sponsored loans to people who dont know any better is actually driving another crop of victims right into the waiting arms of these outfits.

    Apologies to TTAC, but the 2(!) banner ads on the screen as a type this, urging me to borrow thousands from uncle sam and hand it over to UTI, should give us all pause.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The biggest offenders are the major universities themselves. 30-40K a year. They keep adding useless classes to increase their revenue. How does a so-called “public” university get to charge these outrageous amounts wen they are tax sponsored?

  • avatar
    davey49

    Usta Bee- right, plus you wouldn’t have to work in NASCAR. Plenty of other low tier racing series need mechanics.
    MBella- what public university costs $30K per year?
    Not a lot of community colleges teach auto mecahnics. Our closest auto school is a BOCES, kind of a trade/vocational school set up by the county. You can also learn HVAC, nursing and plumbing there.
    I’m not sure I’d talk to technicians at dealerships about anything like this. A lot are idiots. “I’ve got no code! There can’t be anything wrong because I don’t have a code! EEEEk!”

  • avatar

    A man named Billy Mays and his buddies have realized that they can take a commonly available hardware store product, rename it “MIGHTY PUTTY”, and sell it for 5 times as much by putting it right in front of the noses of couch potatos on late night television.

    Actually, Billy Mays is an effective salesman because the products he hawks actually work. He helped establish OxyClean as a brand name in the face of competition like Proctor & Gamble.

    My personal favorite is the Shamwow! guy. I think he and Steve Buscemi were separated at birth.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    MBella: biggest offenders are the major universities themselves. 30-40K a year. They keep adding useless classes to increase their revenue. How does a so-called “public” university get to charge these outrageous amounts wen they are tax sponsored?

    Then I recommend you switch universities. The one where I work is MUCH cheaper. Our annual cost estimates are closer to $30K but that includes generous spending on lodging, transportation, food, books, etc for out of state residents. For an in-state student living at home it is closer to $6K. FWIW I worked my way through college and I never spent anywhere near what they are estimating for books, lodging, food, transportation, etc. Graduated with no student loans either.

    I had a friend who attended DeVry for a couple of years. Hugely expensive and he tells me that the value of the education was worth very little in the end. He went on to the Navy with me and then college. Time and money wasted on DeVry. He told me that he’d recommend a community college at minimum and a four-year state university to anyone who could afford it.

    I figure anyone can go to college if they want to these days. Military service for the GI Bill, work/study programs if you qualify, loans only if necessary, slowly working your way through, a good roommate to split expenses with, setting up a place to live with hand-me-downs and thrift store stuff and keeping the temptation to buy all the latest gadgets at arm’s reach. bring a bicycle to college and skip the car expense. Go year round ’til you get done. Or some combination of these solutions.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    @MBella As a mechanic, I have to fix the problems you engineers create, rpn453.

    Ditto. I’ve seen it over and over.

    I’ve always advocated progressive education and rights of practice. For example, someone should be able to start out at a state technical college, graduate, get licensed, save up the go back for an associate’s degree, repeat, and go back for a bachelor’s.

    As long as some one is practicing in the field, why have to restart at scratch each time?

  • avatar
    Rix

    Not everyone has inclination or aptitude for universities.For the majority of the population who want to learn a skilled trade such as work on cars or become a skilled machinist, community college is best. And for those who want certain other trades such as electrician or plumber, apprenticehip programs are best. For Profit trade schools and expensive private universities are specialized tools which should be used for small slivers of the population.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • thegamper: Looks really good. Sufficiently different to announce its electrified powertrain which seems to be what...
  • PrincipalDan: Do you know the Lyriq? Nah but if you hum the tune I can fake it.
  • Lie2me: I actually like the way it looks, but whether anyone will want one, we’ll see
  • N8iveVA: New e-tron starts at $67k. Model X starts at $80k, Model X performance model is $100k. yikes
  • EBFlex: TTAC is probably right. The Mustang isn’t profitable yet they still make that. Or maybe only at Ford they can...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber