BMW says MSTEP is the first automotive tech training program to be located on a military base. Other automakers also have programs that instruct veterans.
Ford Motor Co.'s Trading One Uniform for Another program, supported by its Quick Lane express service division, awards five $10,000 scholarships to veterans each year to support technician training. Mercedes-Benz also offers training to veterans through its 16-week DRIVE program.
At Camp Pendleton, members of the inaugural MSTEP class were chosen though a different process from students in other BMW tech programs, who must have earned certification in a postsecondary automotive program or completed the automotive technology curriculum offered by Universal Technical Institute, a for-profit provider of technical education.
For MSTEP students such as Adam Ritchie, experience working on cars counts. When Ritchie, 23, completes his four years of Marine service in August, he will be ready to begin work at a BMW dealership.
"If I can get paid for my hobby, it will be the best thing ever," Ritchie says.
To get accepted into MSTEP, Ritchie and his classmates had to pass a written test covering general auto repair knowledge. They took a practical test in which a car's engine was covered with a blanket; they had to identify, using Post-it notes, engine components that they couldn't see.They also had to replace an air filter.
BMW is working with UTI on the Camp Pendleton program. The automaker and institute also work together on two other BMW tech training programs in the United States.
"The civilian world does not recognize military experience in terms of credentials," UTI President Kim McWaters says. "When [MSTEP students] graduate, they will have credentials."