"Imagine what they pay the guy who knows how to work on that," he said. "They pay him dearly."
Erny said the students are using top-of-the-line equipment to learn. Ivy Tech spent $330,000 on new equipment, he said.
"It's a huge help," he said. "We've been able to simulate a dealership setting."
They have state-of-the-art tire alignment equipment and are able to bring in training simulators when students are learning about electrical work.
The institute's partners at Snap-on Tools come in and make sure all of that equipment and the curriculum is up to industry standards, Erny said.
"They come in and evaluate us," he said. "It's important to have that industry support and validation."
The company also provides training for some technical certifications, Those certifications help students build a portfolio of qualifications to show to potential employers, Erny said.
Erny has invited business leaders to come see the Automotive Institute Jan. 31. He said he wants to create awareness among businesses in the community.
"We want them to see the quality and professionalism of the education," Erny said. "Eventually, we want businesses and industries to come looking for our students."
Erny said the program got off to a better start than he expected.
There are only eight students right now, but all of them are still on track to graduate within a year, institute instructor Jim Bonham said.
It's set up as a self-paced program where students can work as fast or as slow as they want.
"It seems like the students feed off each other," he said. "The ones who know a little bit more are helping the ones who don't know as much."
The students are a mix of recent high school graduates and people who have been in the workforce for years.
But that generation gap hasn't been an issue, Bonham said. The younger students teach the older ones how to use the computers and emails, he said. The older students offer helpful mechanical tips that they've picked up during their years of work.
Wilson said he's benefited from the small class sizes. He's gotten more one-on-one time with his instructors.
Erny said he expects the enrollment to continue to go up through the rest of the year.
It's taken other Ivy Tech institutes a year to reach full capacity. For Kokomo's Automotive Institute, that's 20 students.
Erny said at some point, he expects demand for the program to exceed available space. When that happens, his goal is to expand and create more spots.
At the same time, Ivy Tech officials will be looking to bring other institute programs to the Kokomo region.
Within a year, they'd like to add more, Erny said.
A machine tool program and welding program may be coming to the area next, he said.
"That's based off the job needs of the area," Erny said. "We want programs that have high demand."
Wilson is a proponent of the Automotive Institute. In fact, he's been telling everyone he knows about it, he said.
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