When Austin Cronin was growing up, he wanted to be an electrician like his dad. He was enrolled in classes and working towards professional certifications when his career path took an unexpected turn. In the same week, he received word that he had been accepted into both an electrical workers’ union and the Michigan Advanced Technician Apprenticeship Program (MAT²) – and he had to decide between them.

“Ultimately, I chose MAT² because I saw it as having more opportunities for me in the long run,” said Austin. “I really liked cars and wanted to learn more about them. Now, I’m a test technician on the transmission team at ZF in Northville, MI. When I signed up for the program, the biggest draw was working on transmissions, and three or four years down the road, I got to be put in the powerline division to work on just that.”

Austin said MAT², an industry-driven apprenticeship program that combines classroom learning and hands-on experience, was an eye-opening program that has introduced him to a wide range of possibilities in his career.

“You learn a bit of everything,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to bounce around within the program. Usually, you are either a garage technician and work on the vehicles, or you are an assembly technician and work in the assembly room; building up the transmissions once they’re delivered from the garage technicians. This program gave me a fundamental understanding of so many things, and that helps me out regularly to this day.”

Austin’s job as a test technician at ZF covers a broad range of responsibilities, including calibrating transmissions for optimal fuel economy or performance and doing machining and hydraulic work to achieve specific outcomes. While Austin knew when he entered MAT² that he was interested in an automotive field, he said the value of the program is that it lets you explore different interests.

“I would tell others who are considering the program that if you don’t know what you want to do, you get a plethora of knowledge,” he said. “A lot of people I work with or went to school with didn’t know exactly what they wanted. But they learned a little about a lot and then pursued what they were interested in. You can grow your passion without knowing exactly what you want to do.”

Learn more and become a MAT² apprentice here.