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From Student to Department Chair: Saddleback College’s Professor Taylor Brooks Feature Story
In 2004, Taylor Brooks entered Saddleback College’s automotive technology associate degree program eager for a chance to follow his passion for cars. He enjoyed the hands-on nature of working on engines and after graduation, began a career at a car dealership where he has been employed for the last 16 years. For most, this would be enough of a success story—great education leads to even greater career. But Taylor enjoyed his experience at Saddleback so much that he stayed in touch and made visits to his favorite instructors well after he’d graduated. Those visits would eventually lead to the discovery of a new love…teaching.
On one visit he met with then-department chair Cliff Meyers and had an eye-opening experience. “You’re going to teach,” Meyers told him. “You’re going to come in and teach this class.” Taylor laughs as he recalls the interaction that led to him to what would become his second career.
In 2014, Taylor returned as an adjunct instructor and continued on until January of 2020 when he became department chair. In this role, he prepares students for an expansive career working in the field. His career journey was life changing, as he transitioned from an inquisitive student to a leading instructor educating others.
The Automotive Technology program at Saddleback offers extensive training in everything from practical garage skills to customer service to produce well-rounded, shop-ready technicians.
For those that want to enter the workforce face, Saddleback offers five, industry-approved associate’s degrees and certificates in Alternative Fuel Vehicle Specialist, Automotive Chassis Specialist, Automotive Engine Performance Specialist, Automotive Engine Service Specialist, General Automotive Technician. As an added bonus, Saddleback also offers Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) internships through partnerships with local dealerships and independent businesses.
“The first couple years felt very strange because I would be teaching in classrooms where I was younger than many of the students,” Taylor explains. “But at the same time, I could also relate to them.”
As a former student himself, Taylor understands how demanding the advanced transportation industry is and how challenging it can be to balance work with attending college. He recommends students take full advantage of the same career and counseling services offered through Saddleback that contributed to his own success.
Saddleback’s Career Resource Center offers career guidance with programs and resources to assist with making career decisions, choosing a major, and researching occupational information. Student Support Programs also include resources for childcare, international students, undocumented students, an academic multi-level reading center and more.
Having been employed in the industry for 16 years, Taylor understands the day to day challenges and experiences his students will face in the workforce.
“I not only teach them in the classroom, but I also show I’m working with them in the field,” says Taylor. “I understand their struggles because I’m dealing with the same challenges.”
One thing he was never taught about is the “flag rate” system that can benefit technicians as they become more skilled and efficient in their job duties by encouraging them to develop advanced skills which translate into higher salaries. “No one taught me this kind of stuff, it became an eye opener after I graduated and joined the workforce,” Taylor explains.
Most people don’t realize it, but Orange County’s $14 billion-dollar automobile industry is one of the largest in the country, outselling and out-servicing 24 entire states creating over $100 million dollars in sales tax revenues that go back to the city. But despite the economic opportunities created by this success, an ongoing workforce shortage has become an industry bottleneck. With this in mind, Taylor is excited to not only be part of an industry he loves, but to also be training the next generation of technicians.
“The automotive industry is ready and raving to go for anyone in any skill category at every knowledge base,” Taylor says. “It’s a difficult industry but it is rewarding to work at the frontrunner of advanced and upcoming technologies.”
For more information about Saddleback College’s Automotive Technology program, please visit https://www.saddleback.edu/atas/autotech.