From Student to Teacher, Blackhawk Instructor Dedicated to Student Success

October 11, 2019

Automotive Technician Program Instructor Sheldon Newkirk knows firsthand what it is like to be a Blackhawk Technical College student. He came through the college’s Automotive Technician Program as a non-traditional student. “My goal is to give students that same wonderful environment that I experienced,” said Newkirk. Before starting the Blackhawk program, Newkirk gained hands-on experience in the Army as well as in the drag racing circuit in South Carolina.

The technology of the auto industry is constantly evolving. Cars today can have over 50 computers to help them run effectively and efficiently. It is important for instructors to not only teach this but to also learn the new technology to keep up with the changes. Educators need to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and be prepared to develop curriculum to stay on the forefront of training.

The Blackhawk Automotive Technician Program is one of many flexible programs at the college. Flexible education gives the student choices that will allow them to continue their education while working around busy life schedules. “Flexible education provides a support system in which everyone has a part to play in helping a student succeed.”

Students’ needs are the determining factor in the development of flexible programs and courses. The Automotive Technician Program is a FlexLab Hybrid Program. That means the students will do some assignments like reading and pre-tests before they come to the Auto Lab to do the hands-on portion of the learning. Newkirk said this model really helps students because, “they can plan around appointments and other activities that they may have without affecting the success of their learning.”

The program at BTC teaches diagnosis and repair on automobiles and light trucks from bumper to bumper. Some of these courses include Brake Service, Steering and Suspension Service, Engine Repair, Heating and Air Conditioning, Drive Train Service, Electrical and Electronic Troubleshooting. Automotive instructors at Blackhawk teach all courses, so they are competent and experienced in all areas of automotive repair.

“Our students are a diverse group with more starting without any background in the automotive industry,” said Newkirk. “It is still a non-traditional field for females, but I am seeing that slowly change.”  In fact, female students in the program recently completed the fastest tire change during an in-class competition. 

There are many opportunities for graduates of the Automotive Technician Program. Employers are searching for technicians that can communicate well, act professional with the ability to articulate verbally and written correspondence. Soft skills like promptness, reliability, accountability, and honesty are just a few quality characteristics that employers are seeking.

Employers in the region are always looking for qualified entry-level technicians to join their teams. “I urge all students to reach for the highest level of education that they can attain because they can use it anywhere, and in almost any capacity,” said Newkirk. “This area is in dire need of entry-level technicians looking to grow and work with them.”

Newkirk takes his role at the college personally. As a graduate of the program, he aims for the highest level of quality instruction. He enjoys the creative freedom faculty have in developing and delivering curriculum. This provides instructors the flexibility to meet the student’s needs and demands in the high-tech learning environment.

Based on his experience as a Blackhawk student, Newkirk is able to offer wisdom to his students. “Persistence is the key to success and our flexible programs have been developed to be adjustable for things that happen in our lives. Don’t let life events overwhelm you because we have already thought about it and anticipated adjustments in the program just for you.”

Newkirk added, “A student should choose Blackhawk Technical College because they will not find a more personal, caring, and loving college with faculty who are experienced experts in their field. BTC is a great choice all around for quality education, ability to stay near home, and cost-effectiveness that allows several choices in financing your education.”

Hear more from Sheldon Newkirk about Blackhawk's Automotive Technician program:

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