Another education option beyond high school is coming to Long Beach in the form of a technical institute. Specifically, the Universal Technical Institute.

UTI Long Beach’s ribbon cutting will be Aug. 18 by Mayor Robert Garcia, with classes starting the day before, on Aug. 17.

The charter class of enrolled students previewed the facility at 4175 E. Conant St. last week. It is part of the growing Douglas Park industrial area just north of the Long Beach Airport. The group of about 250, including guests, saw the 13 classrooms and 19 labs covering 142,593 square feet.

Areas of study at UTI Long Beach include automotive, diesel, collision repair, as well as auto and diesel combined. There also is Nissan Automotive Technician Training elective that readies students to work on the full line of Nissan and Infiniti models, tools and technologies, as well as smog elective on California campuses. Courses offered vary by UTI campus location and run three to four weeks. Students may enroll any time during the year. Financial aid may be available for qualified students.

There is strong demand for trained workers in the automotive, diesel and collision repair specialties due to Long Beach’s proximity to Southern California’s busy ports, industries and reliance on vehicle travel, said Larry Hohl, president of the new campus. That’s partly why they decided to open a campus in Long Beach.

“They are the consumers of our students,” Hohl said.

The California Employment Development Department says jobs for automotive service technicians will increase by 15% through 2022, according to a release from UTI. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the country will need 1.2 million automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine service technicians by 2022, the release said, which could equate to an average of 37,000 jobs annually.

The institute already has campuses in other California locations and nationwide. The headquarters are in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But Hohl said the Long Beach location was much needed.

“This is such a vast metropolitan area,” Hohl said. “We weren’t serving the students here… We’re excited to make this available to potential students.”

He also said feedback from students was encouraging.

“They tell me, ‘I’m glad you came down here,’” Hohl said.

Before the Long Beach campus was created, students from the area had to commute to Rancho Cucamonga, the closest site.

“We found students didn’t want to commute,” Hohl said.

He added UTI would help students find housing, but relocating was difficult for some.

Incoming student Melvin Salazar said he’d enrolled in the automotive program at the Rancho Cucamonga location, but he lives in Santa Ana. The 2015 high school graduate said he’s into cars, especially.

“I want to focus on this as a career,” Salazar said.

He said he switched to Long Beach when he heard it was opening.

“It’s a hard drive to go back and forth every day,” Salazar said.

Salazar said he also wanted to be in the first class to graduate from the new building.

Long Beach native Andrew Barajas said he’d been thinking about going back to school to study diesel engines. He graduated high school in 2011 and has worked various jobs. Barajas considered other local schools offering similar programs, but enrolled in UTI, he said.

“My friend told me about the program,” Barajas said. “He said, ‘You should get into diesel.’”

For more information, visit uti.edu.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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