STORY BY BELLA GARCIA, MANAGING EDITOR
PHOTO BY IVY CASTANEDA, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
“We’ve been undefeated for years,” said Paul Kelley, Cypress College automotive instructor specializing in the Toyota T-Ten area, of Cypress College’s Toyota T-Ten program.
Cypress’ T-Ten program is one of three in the state of California and has consistently been ranked as one of the top in the nation for their high Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) pass rate. The program was previously ranked by Toyota as number one from 2019 to 2022.
Students who come to Cypress College for the T-Ten program attend a summer session, which is essentially a tryout. A full class is considered 24 students, and this last summer, out of approximately 54, the program took 32.
“When we have too many students, there is not enough space and cars for them to get good training quality,” Kelley said.
Following acceptance, students are placed in a cohort of four whom they move sequentially with throughout the courses. The program is not flexible either. Students are not allowed to take a semester off or get to pick their schedule because the program lays out the area courses in a way that flows best for the students.
Originally from Upstate New York, Kelley discovered he had a passion for automotives after taking classes in the 12th grade. Following acceptance into the General Motors Automotive Service Education Program, graduating from college with a bachelors, and working at a dealership for seven years, Kelley came to California to pursue a teaching position in automotives. Kelley is starting the beginning of his ninth year at Cypress.
“I wanted to replicate what was done for me,” Kelley said, “You get a lot of students who think they hate school, but find something they’re really good at in this program, then [we] help steer them in a way that’ll help them progress in the field– that’s my jam.”
Kelley works alongside automotive technology professor and Toyota T-Ten program coordinator Michael Klyde, who has had a long-established background in automotives since he was a child.
From intervening with his neighbors working on their cars at 5 years old to working at companies including DeLorean Motor Company and Sears Service Centers and developing technician training courses for nine years for companies like Mitsubishi Motors America, Klyde found his place teaching at Cypress in 1995 and got involved with the T-Ten program around 2010.
“What we’re doing here is ensuring students utilize their knowledge and their ability to analyze and determine causes and faults which are very high ordered skills,” Klyde said, “Our hope is that by exposing them to that, they see this is a launchpad career to get them started in this field.”
While in the program, students are sponsored by a Toyota or Lexus dealer who hire, pay and work with the student’s schedules. This biggest payoff for the students is that not only are students getting college credit and graduating, but they get credit from Toyota.
Kelley and Klyde are certified on Toyota’s behalf to issue credits which means that students have the opportunity to come out as certified technicians, making themselves more qualified to employers
“They’re earning while they’re learning,” Klyde said.
“I feel like I’m building legos but for adults,” Heber Mata said jokingly regarding his choice of pursuing a career in automotives.
Mata and Eddye Monares have their heads under the hood of a car that sits in the middle of the shop when talking to me.
“As far as future career decisions, [the program] keeps your mind open as far as what you can, what the possibilities are outside of the shop,” said Monares.
The last cohort of graduating T-Ten students were recently recognized by Toyota Motor of North America (TMNA). The 20 graduating T-Ten students received a minimum of two of 10 ASE certificates, and were given ratcheting wrench sets from TMNA, retailing for $300.
Depending on their level of ASE certification, students are awarded different things including a shirt, jacket, a $550 mongoose cable, and an $800 hybrid installation tester. In addition, some dealerships sponsoring graduates have issued checks and gift cards.
“[Students] are recognized for their top level performance by not only the school, but also TMNA and dealerships,” said Kelley.
The technician certification level is based on completion of coursework, credit for 12 T-Ten courses, and ASE tests passed. In addition to finer awards, earning potential of the T-Ten students depends on their level of certification.
For those interested in pursuing a spot in the T-Ten Program, contact Klyde at email@example.com to get started with setting up a T-Ten overview meeting.
“We’re not just working on cars here,” Kelley said after explaining the required skill set T-Ten Program students develop as automotive technicians to service cars. “…We’re working to prepare people to fill big orders.”