Jake Hartung turning lifelong love of cars into career of a lifetime.
Twenty-three-year-old Jake Hartung of Elmwood, Wis., is speeding through life, but the only ticket he’s picked up is the one to success he received from the Automotive Service Educational Program—more commonly known as ASEP—at Dakota County Technical College.
Hartung works as the shop manager at SSR Race Cars & Parts in Ellsworth, Wis., when he isn’t competing in the open wheel modified division at such Badger State speedways as Red Cedar, Rice Lake and Eagle Valley.
“I’ve always liked driving and working on cars,” Hartung said. “Enrolling in ASEP at DCTC and getting my A.A.S. degree in automotive technology definitely helped me both as an automotive technician and professional race car driver.”
Hartung was only 15 when he started working at a local car dealership as a detailer and car washer. His mechanical aptitude quickly steered him to the technical side of the automotive business.
Through a friend in ASEP at DCTC, he learned how he could garner paid work experience at a sponsoring General Motors dealership while enrolled in the program. He would spend half his time studying at the college with the remainder spent gaining real-world training at an area GM dealer.
Tim McCluskey, an automotive technology instructor in ASEP, remembers Hartung as a top-notch student. “Jake was always pushing himself,” McCluskey said. “He was always trying to learn more. We saw right away that he had an obvious love for anything that burns gas—race cars in particular.”
McCluskey added that ASEP produces graduates who become highly specialized service technicians for General Motors dealers and ACDelco Total Service Support shops. ASEP labs are equipped with the latest GM technology including vehicles, components, training aids and technical information.
“Our program provides General Motors and ACDelco with superbly trained technicians who thoroughly understand the corporation’s computer-oriented products,” he said. “We make sure that our graduates are equipped to keep pace with the increasingly sophisticated technology of the future.”
As an ASEP student, Hartung received a GM Goodwrench Scholarship that included $2,000 toward his schooling and $2,500 toward the purchase of tools. One of his goals includes obtaining GM Master Technician Certification. But his heart beats firmly behind the wheel of a 622-hp race car powered by pure methanol.
“My plan is to tour the U.S. in an open wheel modified series,” said Hartung, who continued racing even while attending college. “My grandfather was a race car driver and I guess I inherited my love for racing from him.”
Hartung’s wife, Sarah, who was his Elmwood High School sweetheart, loves racing, too, and serves as a crew member on race day. Hartung mentioned that his mom is also a race fan, referring to her affectionately as a “pit groupie.”
Hartung’s division competes on a 1/3 mile dirt track. Skillfully guiding Mods that cost $50,000 or more, the drivers average 16 seconds per lap for 10 laps with top speeds reaching 105 mph.
“For us racing is a family outing,” Hartung said. “ASEP at Dakota County Technical College helped me land the job I have now, which keeps me close to racing. DCTC is also one of my racing sponsors, which is just one more way the college is helping make my dream career come true.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for automotive service technicians is expected to increase 14 percent through 2016, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. Roughly 110,000 new jobs will be created.
The BLS reported the median hourly wage at $16.24 for automotive service technicians and mechanics—with the top earners making more than $27 per hour.
ISEEK, the Minnesota Internet System for Education and Employment Knowledge, states that the average hourly pay is $18.24 for automobile mechanics in the state. A large segment of master mechanics earn between $70,000 and $100,000 annually.
ISEEK goes on to say that more than 14,250 automobile mechanics work in Minnesota. Approximately, 15 percent of that number are self-employed.