It pays to dream big sometimes

  • Business
  • Monday, 15 Dec 2008

From a kindergarten to setting up an auto college

It was very courageous of a woman who knew next to nothing about cars to start an automotive college three years ago.

The Otomotif College Sdn Bhd (TOC) chief executive officer and founder Adeline L. K. Foo said she started out to establish a kindergarten but the idea evolved and morphed into a high technology-based college.

“I have to admit that I am not very mechanically inclined and I knew nothing about cars. But over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about cars and mechanical stuff from the lecturers and students.

“I am proud to say I can now change a flat tyre and be on the road again in 30 minutes,” Foo told StarBiz.

She said the thought of setting up an institute came about as she was interested in helping and enlightening people.

Adeline Foo: »If you learn and work hardenough, you can become a Formula Onetechnician and easily earn a lot«

“I am happy to see people’s faces light up when you explain things to them. I was tutoring while in university and I was thrilled to see the students’ happy faces when they understand you,” she said, adding that the experience made her to want to be an educationist.

Foo, who has masters and basic degrees in Chinese opera from the US, said she was unsure of what kind of college to start with.

“After conducting thorough research on the various industries, I realised that Malaysia is the only country in the region to have a national car but no college specialising in automobiles. It didn’t make any sense, especially as Malaysia sells about half-a-million cars every year,” she said, adding that the idea was conceived in 2003 but the college officially opened its door in 2005.

“I started sharing my idea to the some friends of my parents who eventually became my investors. We invested about RM5mil in equipment before we even got the first student!

“At that point, I was worried whether I could repay my shareholders if things did not go smoothly but everything turned out all right and we are starting to make some money now,” Foo said.

Being one of its kind in Malaysia, TOC specialises in automotive education and skills training for the retail (after-market) automotive sector. Its qualifications are internationally recognised and accredited by the National Accreditation Board.

“After-sales service is where the most negative perception can develop against a car marque. More attention must be given to this facet of the industry and TOC hopes to help raise the benchmark and expectations for after-sales service in Malaysia,” Foo added.

Foo said TOC’s programme also incorporated communications, mathematics and science studies.

“People always see mechanics as being lowly paid and are always covered with grease and oil, but this has changed. We want to change the perception. Mechanics are no longer how they used to be.

“Cars are incorporating more electronics and we need people who can diagnose and fix them. If you learn and work hard enough, you can become a Formula One technician and easily earn a lot,” Foo said.

She pointed out that many parents, who tend to discourage their children from embarking on blue-collar jobs, were gradually changing their minds.

TOC recently acquired a 28,000 sq ft site in Petaling Jaya where the campus is located. The campus is equipped with large classrooms that can accommodate a “live” car each, multimedia projectors, screens and exhaust extraction systems.

Apart from two fully air-conditioned workshops with 10 pit bays for practical training, there’s also a high-tech autotronics laboratory featuring the Degem AT-2000 system, which combines large simulator panels, demonstrators and electronic circuit boards networked to a live vehicle and the main teaching workstation to facilitate fault diagnostic techniques.

Despite its short existence, TOC is gaining acceptance from automotive players.

TOC recently received a first generation Honda Civic hybrid from Honda Malaysia. The gift is a way of helping the college provide the best automotive learning experience to its students.

Just last week, TOC and Automobiles Citroen set up a partnership involving the French Education Ministry and Brooklands Motors Sdn Bhd to establish the Franco-Malaysian Training Centre for Citroen for automotive after-sales professionals.

The project is aimed at training technicians for automotive maintenance and customer services in Hong Kong, Malaysia and other Asean countries.

Going forward, Foo said TOC would be introducing more programmes and updating some of its training syllabus to be relevant to the industry.

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