OGDEN -- Kevin Roner looked on knowingly as his automotive students puzzled over their Weber State instructor's latest acts of sabotage.
"I changed something in the ignition systems so they won't work," Roner explained. "I used to work as a master technician at a Toyota dealership, so I know these are problems they will need to solve in the real world."
Weber State University's Department of Automotive Technology and the Technician Training and Education Network (T-TEN) program recently aced the T-TEN validation. The T-TEN program is a two-year degree program with a focus on Toyota and Lexus service technology.
Weber State is one of only six schools nationwide that have or are expected to earn Toyota's top level certification this year. The CEEDS level requires technical mastery of the chassis, electrical, engine and drive train systems.
Thirty-eight additional schools offer the program, but with lower certification levels. WSU is the only Utah school involved.
"The training is invaluable," said student David Brooks, 30, of Clearfield. "I have loved cars since I was a kid. This training opens anything I want to do at a dealership."
Brooks and shop work partner Chad Davis, 31, of Layton, traced the path of the ignition to its power source in a gray Toyota Venza, testing every component along the way.
"I like to know how things work, and how to fix them," said Davis, who is paying his way through school working as a phlebotomist at McKay-Dee Hospital. "This will lead to a higher-paying job than I have now."
Weber State's automotive technology department has a 25-year relationship with Toyota, said Roner, the T-TEN program coordinator. Developing lesson plans for Toyota's highest certification level took Roner and his fellow instructors about three years.
"Our instructors went above and beyond," said Vel Casler, chairman of the WSU Department of Sales and Service Technology. "At Weber State, we are committed to creating excellence in our automotive programs."
WSU's partnership with Toyota is win-win-win. Toyota donates vehicles and large auto components, and information to be used in course work. Weber State produces qualified Toyota service technicians. Students gain the skills and certification needed to launch their careers as dealership technicians.
The T-TEN program also helps arrange student apprenticeships with area dealers. Joe Smith, service manager at Larry H. Miller Toyota, said over the past decade, Weber State has provided him with highly qualified apprentices.
"They're done an excellent job of updating and reinvigorating the program at Weber State," Smith said. "They are really taking the redesign of the curriculum very seriously, and there's been an absolutely dramatic change in the students we get. I've been very impressed. I have 26 full-time technicians here, and at least 10 of them are graduates from Weber State."
Back at the WSU auto shop, Roner debriefed students Bryant Brown and Brian Wayment on the method they used to identify the defective part he had placed in their vehicle. He handed them a functional replacement, and packed away the non-working part for future educational use.
"If you've taken your vehicle to any Toyota dealership from Logan to Provo, then chances are high that the technician who worked on your car is a Weber State T-TEN graduate," Roner said. "The big benefit is for the customers."