There’s operating an international automaker, and then there’s running an international luxury automaker. While we think of BMW as building, restoring, and racing cars, and the tens of thousands of people who work in BMW Manufacturing, there’s also an army of trained professionals that are masters at maintaining the BMWs that we own, drive, and lust after—and these technicians all go through STEP.
STEP, or BMW’s Service Technician Education Program, is the first step (get it?) in becoming a BMW Master Technician. It’s part of what the company calls BMW Group University, and represents the most complete education one can find for all things BMW, ranging from mechanical basics to high-voltage EV batteries, and spanning multiple generations of vehicles, electrical systems, propulsion systems, and body construction. Picture all the different images that come to mind when we think of BMW maintenance and repair, from E46 M3 valve adjustments to i8 carbon-fiber bodywork repairs—and now remember that a BMW-trained technician has to be ready for all of it.
Thankfully, the two-year program takes all of this into account as it trains future technicians for long careers with BMW at dealers around the country. But to accomplish this amid growing sales and evolving technology, it takes significant investment—$56 million, to be exact.
One is the first results of BMW’s push for a more potent training infrastructure is the beautiful facility that opened late last month in Greer, South Carolina, just minutes from the BMW CCA headquarters—and, of course, Plant Spartanburg, BMW’s largest manufacturing facility on earth. The facility is spacious and clean, modeled after the training areas in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, but larger, with better illumination, and more classroom space for students in addition to lifts, bays, and other hands-on areas.
As media were shown during the facility’s opening, the new 35,000-square foot facility will offer even more opportunity for interested applicants, often those who have graduated from a technical college or program and are interested in entering the next phase of their careers. Of course, for such an in-demand program, there are a couple items of note. This particular facility is designed for STEP 2 participants, meaning those who have already completed the first BMW STEP course in their technician education, but it should enable both more comprehensive education of second-year students, as well as furthering and re-training current dealer technicians on the latest design and engineering practices.
Those practices are becoming more and more real, and as BMW Group pushes harder for electrification, they’ll need to attract more technicians to the brand who are adept at learning a new platform like like G12 7 Series with its carbon core, or working an i8’s complex high-voltage hybrid battery system.
If you’re a student, and are interested in working with cars and platforms like this, ask your technical college about BMW STEP opportunities, the BMW Scholar Program, or the BMW Apprentice program, all of which are part of BMW Group University’s goal of getting more technicians into dealerships, more cars back on the roads, and more happy customers at the wheel.—David Rose
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]