More heads under hood in expanded auto program


Southwestern College is expanding its Automotive Technology program is getting a huge boost to its program with its new Automotive Technology Center construction at the Otay Mesa Higher Education Center. The 59,000 sq. ft. one-story building will include offices, classrooms, high bay labs, student project spaces, workshops for welding and areas of storage for project cars. Its design includes flexibility for the evolving technology industry.

This project is funded by Measure 2 at an estimated $2 million and construction is scheduled to start this year with the facility opening in spring 2022.

Students that enroll in the program are already getting another boost into learning about the industry, with a $500,000 endowment set up by Ray Brock which provides two scholarships a year to qualifying students.

Brock has worked in the car business his whole life, working in the auto repair business until 1998, sold his business and retired. Not liking retirement, he continued to work another 15 years rebuilding racing engines. Brock said that at this point in his life, it was time to give something back.

“Kids these days cannot learn the way we did,” said Brock. “Years and years ago we could get a position learning on the job. Nowadays cars are much more complicated, so you must go to school first and get educated in a lot of these systems before you can attempt to understand and work on them.

Living in the South Bay, he decided to do something about it. In talking with the SWC Foundation, he gave $500,000 and his partner added to that.

“It is finance in such a way that it should be ongoing long after I am gone,” he said. “We are hoping to give away scholarships in a way that it will come out of what the endowment will earn. As it earns money every year, we will give away the earnings.”

Erica Johnson, Southwestern College Foundation development coordinator said it has been so much fun working with Brock and his scholarship is like a personal legacy.

“Brock has this lifelong passion for automobiles, working with his hands, fixing things, and he really wanted to create something that would support students who are looking to follow a similar career path and have the same joys in life that he has been able to have in that industry and working with cars,” said Johnson.

Johnson said this scholarship is the first of its kind specified for the automotive program and is set up to live in perpetuity.

“He will be supporting students for decades to come, I imagine for as long as the automotive program exist,” said Johnson. “Right now, it is set up to award about $20,000 every year.”

Johnson said Brock is awarding scholarships for both fall and spring semesters. The first is a $500 bookstore scholarship so students have access to get anything they need to help them with their studies. The second scholarship provides six students with a toolkit valued at $1,250. Partnering with Snap-on local rep Dennis Spring, winners of the scholarship can create a custom toolkit, as many of the students already have some tools that they own.
“Instead of saying everyone gets these four things, many of the students have been working in automotive and personally have their own tools at home, so they are able to pick and choose to whatever is most helpful for them,” she said.

Johnson said before the pandemic, Brock came to the main campus to speak with automotive technology students and said it was fun to visit the various classrooms and give them a little insight to how this business works.

“In addition to that, I chatted with John Ball, the Ball Auto Group in National City and he is going to participate at some level, maybe being able to acquire a car occasionally for the school and engines and transmissions that they might be able to use in the education program so that the kids have something to work on,” said Brock.

Johnson said Brock is involved in a committee to work on the new facility at Otay Mesa as an industry expert to ensure the facility is exactly what it is supposed to be.

“I was invited to participate in this advisory committee that is helping to decide what the floor plans look like, and the layout,” said Brock. “We visited the site. I was in the business forever so I have some ideas on how the building should be laid out.”

Southwestern College Automotive Technology Professor David Preciado said this program has existed at the main campus for many years and offers a complete automotive program designed to create the innovation of being professionally education as a technical automotive technician to service today’s technically advanced vehicles.

Preciado said the program offers bumper to bumper classes that encompasses the entire vehicle, beginning with the most basic courses. From the basics, the program goes all the way to teaching computer and emission failure diagnostics following the nationwide automotive excellence certified program.

“Our main objective is to prepare these students for gainful employment or employment advancement,” he said.

Preciado said new site is being designed to cater to electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and will continue to address current mechanical technology while still looking into the future.
Currently the automotive department offers an associate degree in automotive technology, learning the trade courses along with academic education. In addition, it offers different degrees of certification where a student can choose to focus on a certain area of a vehicle.

To donate to the Automotive Tech Scholarship endowment, contact the Southwestern College Foundation and earmark your contribution specifically to this scholarship program.

More heads under hood in expanded auto program