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 Utica resident Claude Townsend, left, works with students in his role as head of Oakland Community College’s automobile servicing program.

Utica resident Claude Townsend, left, works with students in his role as head of Oakland Community College’s automobile servicing program.

Photo provided by Kim Madeleine


OCC automotive instructor from Utica earns rare teaching certification

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 20, 2020

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UTICA — A local resident who is an instructor at Oakland Community College received his certification as a NC3 master instructor in October.

Claude Townsend, of Utica, who is the head of OCC’s automobile servicing program, has taken his mastery of automotive teaching further by earning this certification.

The NC3 certification is a “seal of approval” that is nationally recognized as the standard for certifications and workforce development.

Townsend, who has been an instructor at OCC for four years, reportedly is the only instructor ranked with this certification among all community colleges in Michigan.

Through the National Coalition of Certification Centers, or NC3, Townsend earned this certification after shadowing four NC3 master instructors and then teaching classes under the watch of mentors at colleges across the country.

He said he decided to get the certification to further his ability to teach students.

“I decided to continue on for the certification because I think it will help enhance my ability to teach my students. I can see how students will benefit from the certifications, and I want to make sure they are getting my best,” he said in an email.

This past year Townsend traveled to other states, including Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina.

Townsend believes shadowing and teaching classes at other schools exposed him to different types of students and teaching techniques to aid his skills and expertise in teaching automotive repair.

“In one of the classes I taught, I had a deaf student who required a sign language interpreter to translate my lecture, so I had to learn to speak much slower to be effective,” he said. “That experience really helped me to understand a different way of teaching and adapting my lectures and instruction to make it easier for all my students to grasp important concepts. I have learned teaching to peers is different than teaching to young adults.”

Townsend said the experience also provided him with exposure to other college automotive training facilities, which gave him ideas to incorporate into OCC’s program.

He said OCC students can now earn up to 21 NC3 certifications and five certificates of attendance in the college’s automobile servicing program.

“Earning these certifications gives students an added advantage in the job market because auto dealerships and repair shops know these students are certified, and they do not have to spend extra time and money training on various aspects of automotive repair,” said Townsend.

Jolene Chapman, the dean of engineering, manufacturing and industrial technology at Oakland Community College, said that having Townsend as an instructor at OCC has benefited the automotive program and the students.

“Claude Townsend has done an incredible job of building a top-notch automobile servicing program at OCC. His pursuit of the NC3 master instructor distinction puts him in a category head and shoulders above other instructors. There are many benefits to having an NC3 master instructor overseeing OCC’s automobile servicing program.

“First and foremost, our students benefit from that knowledge, as they have the ability to learn from the best and earn NC3 certifications throughout the program. Second, it ensures that OCC stays on the cutting edge of technology by maintaining the latest software updates for this highly technical field. Third, it puts Oakland Community College on the map as a distinct program. And finally, it enables Claude to share his knowledge and experience with others as he mentors instructors interested in obtaining NC3 certifications,” Chapman said in an email.

Townsend said he has learned a lot from the experience.

“I learned so much during this process that I really want to give back to others who are dedicated enough to earn the NC3 status, and being a mentor in this program is a great way to do that,” he said.

He said he was determined to achieve the goal.

“I think working hard really pays off. I knew when I started the journey it was going to be hard and take a long time, and I have now reached my goal. I’m looking forward to the next certification, because continuing education in the automotive field is never ending.”

Townsend said the automotive field is one in which students can be both successful and make a decent amount of money.

“To excel in the automotive field is not difficult. If a student has the desire and a good work ethic with some training, they will never be without work. The cost for education is far less than some other fields. The cost of tools is high, but it’s an investment in their future. One can never have too many tools. So with hard work, a good work ethic and additional training, a student can make a nice, livable wage,” he said.

Townsend said he has been teaching young technicians for more than 19 years.

“I love to hear how students are doing in life and their chosen career paths, knowing that I helped in some way to make a difference for them,” he said.

He chose to work in the automotive sector because of his father.

“I chose to work in this field because I grew up doing mechanic work with my father. I attended a career tech education program in high school where I excelled under the guidance of a great instructor. I attended Ferris State University for heavy equipment service and automotive management, where again outstanding instructors guided me. The excellent training I received allowed me (to) work for some great companies. My true calling came when I was afforded the opportunity to become a career technical education instructor,” he said.

For more information, visit oaklandcc.edu.

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