Creating a culture of growth with the UI’s automotive service professionals
At the University of Iowa, full-time automotive service technicians work alongside student staff to keep campus transportation running. Their combined efforts and service enable more than 5.3 million miles of travel and campus transportation per year. As part of Automotive Service Professionals Month, the Parking and Transportation department is highlighting the important work of the nine full-time and 11 part-time student staff that maintain and repair the university’s fleet of buses and vehicles.
This team of 20 makes transportation services possible thanks to both their exceptional skillsets and their efforts to keep the workplace collaborative. With varying levels of experience between students and full-time staff, veteran technicians take their responsibility to educate very seriously.
“The full-time mechanics are always ready to help out student staff,” says Pat Smith, CAMBUS and Fleet Services maintenance supervisor, “the most important thing you learn at the garage is to ask questions.”
Collaborating for service excellence
A day's work at the maintenance facility is a combination of scheduled, preventative maintenance and corrective repairs. The team completes preventative maintenance to catch problems before they start, and when issues arise, they collaborate to get equipment back on the road safely and quickly. They service a wide variety of vehicles that enable daily business on campus, out of state travel for events, and the employee van pool program.
Technicians at the university are highly skilled and possess at least 10 ASE certifications and are certified in truck, transit, and automotive repair. Their adaptability as a team contributes to their success. The team is divided into CAMBUS staff and Fleet Service staff with two positions that are assigned to both that allows for additional flexibility. Their knowledge and skills allow them to provide flexible support in all areas of campus transportation.
Vehicles maintained by Fleet Services in FY 22
“The most important thing you learn at the garage is to ask questions.”
A culture of teamwork
By working through challenges as a team, the UI’s full-time service technicians and CAMBUS student employees have created a unique workplace culture. The team is always willing to help each other out and step in if there is an urgent repair needed to keep campus moving. “Our staff functions in much more of a team environment than you find in a lot of repair shops,” Smith says.
“There’s a comradery that flows from the full-time staff to the student mechanics, and out into the CAMBUS drivers, and that definitely sets us apart,” technician Jamie Watson says.
Every CAMBUS technician helps guide and educate student employees in some way. Full-time technicians are always happy to lend a hand to maintenance assistants, so new employees learn how to work within the team quickly. CAMBUS technicians also help foster a partnership between maintenance and operations for the campus transit system.
Helping students grow
Student maintenance assistants are a big part of what makes the team dynamic unique. There are currently 11 CAMBUS students employed as part-time maintenance assistants who perform or supervise activities like fueling, cleaning, and minor repairs on transit buses.
CAMBUS student employees start as drivers and can begin applying for student mechanic positions after six months. The promotion is both an opportunity to learn from full-time service technicians, and a chance to build leadership skills while supervising their peers during clean-up shifts.
“I've learned not only teamwork skills, but also leadership skills, whether it's working alongside the full-time mechanics or leading a group of 6+ of my coworkers during clean up,” says student mechanic Kristina Dibert.
Over the years, the maintenance facility has seen many groups of students grow into their new roles. Technician Robert Bousek says that mental toughness is one of the most important skills students pick up. “They learn to accept being wrong very quickly,” he adds, “and then by the time they graduate, they can do most of the work on their own.”
Watson agrees, “The best part is seeing their confidence develop. They leave the job as very different people.”
miles of CAMBUS service enabled in FY 22
"I've learned not only teamwork skills, but also leadership skills"