NACAT: Supporting Automotive Educators

June 11, 2024
Marking its silver anniversary, this organization helps make the transition from industry to education.

Reaching 50 years of age, the big 5-0, or a half-century, is a significant milestone for any person or organization. Automotive repair educators can certainly agree, as this marks the 50th year since the North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT, pronounced “naycat) was established.

This will be a major theme at the upcoming 2024 NACAT Conference, July 22 to July 25 in Indianapolis.


If you’re not too familiar with the organization, no one could describe it better than NACAT President, Drew Barnes. “NACAT is an organization that was founded for automotive teachers by automotive teachers,” he said.  

“As you transition from the industry into education, it’s a whole different world,” Barnes explained. “Much of the training provided by school districts and universities doesn’t really cater to the automotive instructor.”  

As the cars you see in your shop change in body, material, and even the types of engines, it’s imperative that educators are constantly updated before they teach a class to automotive students. 

Their status in automotive repair circles is so well-respected that they even have people from outside North America attending and participating in training events.  

Barnes emphasizes that the education teachers receive isn’t just about repairing the latest model vehicles. It’s also about things that instructors don’t often get training on anywhere else, such as classroom management. 

When the Student Becomes the Master  

Barnes says for those who might decide to enter teaching, “You might really understand how to work on a car, but you’ve never taught it. So, there are certain things from every ASE automotive area, from engines to transmissions to HVAC, and all the different topics that there are. And we try to provide a very wide variety of all the topics that are there.”  

“I’ve been teaching for 15 years now, and there are still times that I want to go in and join in an engine performance training,” he added. 

He also highlighted the popularity of EVs, ADAS, the technological advancements in engine management systems, and in automatic transmissions, which all make NACAT more important than ever.  

These automotive repair topics will also play a big role in the upcoming conference as well. 

“As an automotive technician, we always had training at our fingertips, but as a teacher, you kind of fall out of that loop a little bit and it’s hard to maintain a status of working with the manufacturers and other people to have access to that training,” Barnes said.

The Structure of NACAT  

Barnes, as the NACAT president, is the chief executive officer and the “face” of the corporation, according to their website. Therefore, Barnes has control over NACAT’s general business affairs, property, assets, employees, officers, and others appointed to represent the corporation. He was elected last year and is in the middle of his two-year term.

Aside from his duties as president, like everyone else in NACAT, Barnes has been an automotive instructor at Vale High School, in Vale, Oregon, for 12 of his 15 total years of teaching.

Before teaching, he worked as an automotive technician in a GM dealership and an independent automotive repair facility. Drew is a 2005 graduate of the General Motors ASEP program. He is an ASE Certified Master Technician and a current NACAT board member.

Barnes has been with NACAT since 2016 as a member and became president last year. The board of directors is a group of up to nine NACAT members who provide vision, direction, and advice to NACAT, according to the website. The board does not conduct the day-to-day business of the organization. The board monitors trends, offers guidance or suggestions, and discusses outcomes with the intent of helping NACAT grow and provide value to its members.

The board has one face-to-face meeting each year, occurring the day before the opening of the NACAT Conference, and ending the day after the conference, held at (or nearby) the conference site. The board also meets regularly throughout the year through conference calls.

NACAT officers, business manager, and others often participate in board meetings to facilitate conducting corporation business with as much efficiency as possible. Board members serve a three-year term and must have been a NACAT member for over two years to be eligible for office.

What Will Happen at the 50th Annual Conference?  

The NACAT 2024 Conference is set to take place at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Plainfield Indianapolis Airport. The conference will commence with a gathering for first-time attendees and new NACAT members on Monday, July 22, 2024, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., providing an opportunity for newcomers to learn about the conference and start networking.

Following this, the opening general session will be held from noon to 2 p.m., featuring keynote speaker Dave Macholz, who will present on “Embracing Technological Change in Automotive Education.”

Later that evening, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., all attendees are invited to the NACAT Welcome Reception, hosted by DSM Precision Manufacturing.

On Tuesday, July 23, 2024, attendees can join the annual BBQ and Valve Cover Races from 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. This social event, included in the training package, promises fun with races and a BBQ.

On Wednesday, July 24, starting at 6 p.m., NACAT members and conference attendees are invited to gather at the Coachman Restaurant and Lounge in Plainfield.

The conference concludes on Friday, July 26, with a tour of the Toyota Production System from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This behind-the-scenes tour of Toyota’s facility is limited to 25 people.

Attendees can register for the NACAT 2024 Conference Training and acquire 20 continuing education credits, which fulfills the ASE Educational Foundation requirements. If funds are not available until July, attendees can register now and select ‘Pay Later’ at checkout.

The Benefits of NACAT Membership

Attending the annual conference alone will enable educators of ASE Educational Foundation-certified programs to fulfill their programs’ requirements to complete 20 hours of professional development each year. Membership will also grant year-round access to a digital training library, among other benefits.

Members are awarded discounts, including $20 off a VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo Weekend or Four-Day Power Pass Registration, and a 20% discount on Motor Age Training products.

The benefits of NACAT extend beyond just members. Every year, NACAT awards the Larry Cotten Memorial Scholarship of $1,000 to a student training to become a collision repair technician.

“If you’re not a current NACAT member, explore the website and some of the benefits. Connect with people you may know who are NACAT members and see if it’s a good fit for you,” Barnes said.

“Back in 2016, I stumbled across the NACAT organization while looking for training,” he added. “I’ve been a member ever since, and now, as the current president, it’s truly been a fantastic organization.”

For more information on the benefits of joining NACAT, and to access the conference agenda, please visit the NACAT website.

About the Author

Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa | Associate Editor

Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa is an associate editor at FenderBender. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and has covered various beats beyond collision repair news such as politics, education, sports, and religion. His first car was a silver 2009 Chrysler Sebring which he nicknamed the Enterprise because he’s a Star Trek fan. He now drives a 2014 Jeep Cherokee in order to tolerate Minnesota winters.

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