Jermaine Whirl plans to take Augusta Technical College “back to the future.”
In 1986, the school had the top automotive education program in the nation, and a new facility could allow it to capture that distinction once again.
On Nov. 1, the Augusta Technical College president and other officials held a soft launch and announced the name of the new Jim Hudson Automotive Institute.
“Our plan is really to make this a fully functional simulated auto dealership,” said Whirl of the former Johnson Motor Co. location at 1122 Walton Way. “The opportunity they (students) will have is not only hands on training, but they will do it in a live work environment.”
Whirl called the concept the first of its kind in the country.
The automotive program will feature traditional automotive tech learning plus studies on EV, diesel and auto body and collision. In addition, it will include a new program that is currently under development focusing on other jobs at a car dealership including sales, service, parts management, finance and customer service.
When the new program is running, people will be able to take their cars for service at the Walton Way Center, and the students will get the full experience of working in a dealership environment from dealing with customers to repairing a car to ordering parts and billing.
Jim Hudson said there is a tremendous need for this program.
“The impact that this is going to have on the automotive business there’s no way you can image. The hardest employees it is to get today are technicians,” said Hudson, who has been in the automotive industry for 50 years.
Hudson along with the Augusta National Golf Club and the Knox Foundation are the major donors for the center. The anticipated opening date is 2025; 2024 will be spent updating the building, getting the necessary equipment into place and finding a corporate partner to get the center ready for opening.
Currently, the automotive department has about 11,000 square feet and 120 students enrolled. The new center has 65,000 square feet, and Whirl anticipates upwards of 600 students, both new students and others who may already be in the field but are seeking to upgrade their certifications.
Whirl, who celebrates his third anniversary with Augusta Tech on Thursday, said there are four main industries Augusta Tech prepares students for – medical, manufacturing, automotive and transportation. He sees the next push as obtaining funds for a CDL program in McDuffie County.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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