Ben Dixon’s day begins earlier than most — definitely before I even thought about getting up when I was 20 years old. At 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, you’ll find him in class at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI). Chances are he’s already been awake for an hour or so.
Between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., Dixon is out of class and on his first break. Whether it’s a real “break,” however, is debatable. As a student council faculty director, between his morning and afternoon class and lunch, you’ll find Dixon doing things to assist the faculty education and student services departments. If you can’t find him on campus, he’s probably under the hood of a car at the local Infiniti dealership where he works when his schedule allows.
You don’t have to talk to Dixon for long to realize that, to him, cars are more than a mode of transportation. They are a passion — something he’s willing to sacrifice for and part of an industry he was born to be in. After high school graduation, Dixon found himself attending a traditional four-year university. However, it didn’t take long for big dreams and an affinity for fast cars to steer him toward pursuing an education from UTI.
“I was in college, and I wasn’t really liking it. My buddy had just graduated with his master’s degree. One day, he told me, ‘I love cars, and I’m going to figure this out.’ When he mentioned he was going to go check out UTI, I asked if I could go with him,” Dixon said.
Dixon had recently bought a Nissan 350Z and gotten into drifting and high-performance racing. He’d dreamed about opening up his own automotive business and naming it, “Reckless Intention” — something he’s since done and is currently growing. A push from a good friend and a UTI campus that impressed him was all it took for Dixon to decide attending UTI was the path he needed to take to get closer to attaining his goals.
“When I went to UTI, I was amazed at how clean the labs were, the amount of people they had on staff to welcome me and the tutors and resources they offered,” Dixon said. “I’d seen the campuses of other technical schools, and none of them compared to what I walked into that day. Once I was there, I was hooked. I knew it would be a good fit for me.”
“January 22, 2014,” Dixon rattled off when I asked him about the day he began pursuing his technical education.
“That was my start date. I was 19 years old,” Dixon said.
He talked about it like it was as important a date as any other birthday, wedding anniversary or big life event — because to him, it was.
“UTI has given me leadership qualities, opportunities and connections to open up my own business. Being a part of student council has taught me a lot about people. When it comes to the classroom, the things I’ve learned have been priceless,” Dixon said. “I’ll learn something in my electrical class and be able to take it back to my job at Infiniti. Even though I’m supposed to be doing the small stuff there, I like to listen to what the master techs have to say about certain issues they’re having with cars. I have the opportunity to tell them what I would do. Sometimes I get the answer right, sometimes I don’t but I always learn something.”
Before UTI connected Dixon with Infiniti, Dixon would stay after school and help the high-performance instructors put together engines.
“They’d always be willing to stay after class — for hours — and I’m not talking one or two teachers, I’m talking four or five. That’s where I learned the most. UTI is more than the curriculum they teach you during class,” Dixon said.
It was like asking a parent to pick their favorite child when I asked Dixon which class he liked the most. But after careful consideration, he settled on power and performance classes, I and II.
“My favorite classes have to be those because I learned so much about how to build an engine, properly install it and make a car go fast,” Dixon said.
Dixon is as driven as they come. It’s probably the main reason behind his success so far. His advice to other UTI students or those considering pursuing an education there is simple, go every day, show up on time and work hard.
“If you do those three things, you’ll be successful,” Dixon said.
UTI offers different curriculum options including, automotive, collision, diesel, marine, motorcycle and NASCAR. Most programs are completed in 10-22 months. There are two class shifts, Monday-Friday. The first is from 6:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and the other is from 2-8:15 p.m.
“Each class lasts three weeks. If you want to double phase — which means you’re in school all day — you can, but it’s difficult and hard for most students to balance,” Dixon said.
Tuition varies depending on the nature and length of the program. It starts around $21,100 and financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify.
Don’t forget, your education is an investment in your future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the U.S. will need approximately 1.2 million professional automotive, diesel, collision repair and marine technicians by 2022.
Dixon is originally from New Jersey but attends UTI’s Exton, Pennsylvania, campus — one of the 11 UTI campuses across the U.S. If you’re nervous about finding a place to live or being away from friends and family, UTI can help connect you with the right people. They partner with Collegiate Housing Services (CHS) to assist students who are relocating and need help finding a place to live. CHS provides a full range of housing services and will work closely with students to determine the best options for them. UTI’s housing department can also help students who are looking for roommates connect with one another.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to muddle your way through essays and what feels like endless questions to apply to UTI. The application process is easy. UTI’s admissions representatives will walk you through the application process and answer any lingering questions you may have.
“Once you decide UTI is for you, you’ll attend an orientation. At orientation you’ll have the opportunity to listen to how everything works and visit each department to make sure you’re all set up. You’ll get your uniform and schedule then, too. It’s not difficult at all,” Dixon said.
Not every student’s day looks the same. One of the best things about UTI is their willingness to tailor each student’s education depending on what it is they want to accomplish while taking classes. The opportunities are there for the taking, and UTI will help along the way. All you have to do is decide what you want and be willing to put in the time and effort to go and get it.
Dixon’s future is loud, fast and impressive, and his dreams are huge.
“This year, Reckless Intention has taken off. In the future, I’d like to see it get even bigger and be able to do more dirt bike and rally racing,” Dixon said. “I’d like to expand professionally by opening a performance shop or racetrack — or both! I realize these aren’t typical things, so I also plan on going through UTI’s Ford FACT program because the electrical program is so fantastic that it allows you to work on almost any car. This way, as I chase my dreams, I will always have my education to fall back on.”
After 50 years in business, UTI has graduated more than 190,000 technicians. With demand growing for professional entry-level technicians in the transportation industry, it is a fantastic way for passionate men and women to further their careers and enrich their futures. To learn more, visit: www.uti.edu