Wake Tech announced that Governor Roy Cooper, automotive industry icon Rick Hendrick and other elected officials and industry partners cut the ribbon on the $42 million state-of-the-art Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence on the Scott Northern Wake Campus. The facility will allow the college to triple the number of students in its automotive systems technology program and add a new degree program in collision repair.
“We’re thrilled to open what is without a doubt one of the premier automotive training facilities in the country,” said Dr. Scott Ralls, president of Wake Tech. “Automotive maintenance and collision repair have changed so drastically, and technicians today need highly specialized skills. Now, we’ll be able to provide the Triangle’s many dealerships and service centers with the qualified workforce they need.”
The new facility was made possible by a number of industry partners, particularly Hendrick Automotive Group, for which the center is named. Hendrick Automotive Group has established a $1 million endowment to support students, faculty, staff and technology in the college’s automotive programs. The company employs more than 5,000 people in North Carolina, including nearly 1,200 in the Triangle.
“It’s incredibly important that the automotive industry continues to attract young talent by offering them the best possible education and career opportunities,” said Rick Hendrick, chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group. “This new educational center on the campus of Wake Tech will help address our longstanding need for qualified auto technicians. By collaborating with our manufacturer partners, Wake Tech has built a facility that will grow with our industry and prepare people for well-paying jobs right here in North Carolina. They hit it out of the park.”
Hendrick, who is also the owner of NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports, joined Dr. Ralls, Cooper, Wake Tech Board Vice Chair Kellie Falk and Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Sig Hutchinson in making the announcement.
“This center will help students expand critical skills and and keep up with rapidly changing automobile technology,” said Cooper. “North Carolina is leading the way in the transition to clean transportation, and partnerships like this one between Hendrick Automotive Group and Wake Technical Community College strengthen our economy and secure our clean energy future.”
The Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence features a 16,500-square-foot automotive systems lab, named for Capital Automotive Group, with 13 lifts and two wheel alignment machines.
It also includes a 15,000-square-foot collision repair lab with six lifts, four paint booths and two frame straighteners. Other features include a performance lab for engine and transmission classes, dyno rooms for testing engines and transmissions, a welding lab, eight classrooms, three computer labs and a conference room. Glass walls allow visitors to view lab activity without disturbing classes.
“This will soon become a hub for industry activity of all kinds, a place for training in the latest technologies and trends, where students, expert instructors and industry leaders will be able to interact and learn from each other,” said Dr. Ralls. “Ultimately, that activity helps to drive our economy — and is a shining example of why I like to say ‘Wake County runs on Wake Tech!'”
Industry partners include:
- Capital Automotive Group, which donated $500,000 for student scholarships, faculty retention and support, and student books and tools.
- Advance Auto Parts, which donated $250,000 to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups in automotive training programs through its Future Technicians Program scholarships. Beginning this fall, five students will receive $2,500 per year to cover tuition and fees, plus a $600 stipend for tools. The funds will also be used for student recruitment, tools and equipment.
- Axalta Coating Systems, which donated $250,000 for student scholarships and faculty support in the Collision Repair program. The company is also donating $65,000 for equipment and supplies.
Other partners include: Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association; Carolina Exotic Car Club; Leith Automotive Group; Crossroads Automotive Group; Cox Automotive Group; Northwood University; CDK Global; Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association; Auto Care Association; and Rick Guirlinger, owner and president of Bourke Services.
“We’re extremely grateful for all our industry partners who have come together for this important project,” said Matt Smith, vice president and executive director of the Wake Tech Foundation. “The partnerships will attract students from diverse backgrounds to this field where they are needed — and help to keep our local automotive industry strong.”
Alex Tang, a 2019 graduate of Wake Tech’s automotive technology program, spoke during the program. He said he has a great career as a service technician at Hendrick BMW at Southpoint thanks to the training he received at Wake Tech and on the job at Hendrick Automotive Group.
“This moment is very special to me,” said Tang. “I want to thank all my instructors for giving me a chance to start a terrific new career. By teaching me everything I needed to know and being informed about the automotive industry as a whole, I was immediately prepared to apply the skills and knowledge to succeed.”
The Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence is the first of five major expansion projects funded by Wake County’s 2018 bond, which passed with 65% of the vote. The architect for the project was Gensler, and the construction manager was Brasfield and Gorrie. Wake Tech’s project manager was Daniel Edwards.
The Automotive Systems Technology degree program features training in advanced diagnostics, brakes, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, steering/suspension, transmission, climate control and manual drive trains. Collision repair includes painting and refinishing, including special finishes, non-structural and structural repair, automotive plastic and adhesives identification repair, automotive detailing, body shop operations and auto body estimating.
Wake Tech’s Automotive Systems program offers opportunities for specialized training with Audi, Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Toyota/Lexus. There are also opportunities for apprenticeships at local dealerships and service centers through WakeWorks Apprenticeship and opportunities to ladder-up to a bachelor’s degree through partnerships with Northwood University and Weber State University. For more information, click here.