If you want to learn from the best, your instructor has to love what they do. When it comes to automotives, the best instructors love cars. And trucks. And motorcycles. And anything with an engine and wheels.
That’s why Jason Barnes is the perfect pick as Community College of Philadelphia’s new Medium and Heavy Truck Technology instructor.
“I see certain vehicles and I see beauty, I see art,” Jason said. “I see the mechanics of how they make that thing go. I flip up the hood and look at the engine. I want to see what the suspension can do. I want to see what the engine can do. I want to see what other technology is on the car.”
As Jason explained, all of the automotive instructors at the College’s West Philadelphia Career and Advanced Technology Center share that same passion for vehicles.
“We’re all geeks at heart when it comes down to this stuff,” Jason said with a laugh. “All four of us here are car guys. We love to do it. We see a car and, like most mechanics, we say, ‘how can I improve that? What can I do to change that? What can I do to make it faster?’ You've seen guys who tear apart cars, fix this, fix that, fabricate this. Yeah, I'm that dude. I just love it.”
Jason was born and raised in West Philadelphia and is a CCP alum, having started his time in the College automotive program in 90s and officially graduating in 2018. He’s married and has three grown daughters. He’s also a big motorcycle hobbyist and owns four of his own bikes. Come this fall, he’ll be teaching his first group of Medium and Heavy Truck Technology students.
In his program, students will learn to diagnose and repair various systems in large vehicles, like firetrucks, city transit buses and semi-trucks. Courses give students hands-on experience with electrical systems, HVAC, drivetrain systems and much more.
In addition to the two-year degree path, the College offers two professional certificates in Medium and Heavy Truck Technology for those looking to gain a practical skillset and quick entry into the industry.
A lot has changed since Jason was an automotive student at CCP. For one, the Career and Advanced Technology Center didn’t exist back then. The state-of-the-art facility was built just last year and houses labs for automotive vehicles, welding, fabrication, and diesel components, as well as a dental assistant lab, medical lab, drone technology lab and so much more. The building houses numerous vehicles through partnerships with companies like Toyota and SEPTA, providing autos for students to get hands-on experience.
The high-tech facility is part of the draw for car geeks like Jason, especially considering the way today’s vehicles rely on computers, hybrid, and electric systems.
“We have a hybrid bus right here,” Jason said, pointing to the SEPTA bus that sits on the ground floor of the Career and Advanced Technology Center. “It's a diesel-electric bus. Back in the day, you’d bring your car to the mechanic, and he can listen to it and tell you what’s wrong. ‘I got one cylinder that's not firing.’ But what we learn here is diagnosing it with a computer or your laptop.”
Before Jason began his CCP teaching career, he worked at SEPTA for nearly two decades as a mechanic and, eventually, in management.
“I was fixing the buses, putting the buses back together for 10 years,” he said. “But I think the degree I earned also allowed me to move up into management.”
As he put it, the education that comes with a two-year automotive degree gives graduates the speaking and writing skills that open up more job possibilities. On top of that, it opens up more education options, like transferring to a four-year school or university.
Ultimately, the Medium and Heavy Truck Technology program sets students up to get good paying jobs.
“If you like working with your hands and solving problems, this might be the career for you,” Jason said. “And you’ll be able to afford your toys if you want them. You'll make a good living.”