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Joe Baker and Dave Lesh

Auto instructor passes on training he received at RCC

Dave Lesh recently started his third year teaching for RCC’s Automotive Technology program.

Each Friday he comes to Redwood Campus in Grants Pass to share his expertise on brakes and steering suspension. The rest of the week he works at Dave’s Import Service, a Medford shop owned by Dave Facciuto, where he’s been shop foreman the past six years.

Lesh, who over the years has hired a number of RCC grads, has also helped several Cooperative Work Experience students attain on-the-job opportunities.

“Teaching spurs me on to hit the books and brush up on information so I can answer students’ questions,” Lesh said. “I like the teaching environment. The biggest payoff is helping them find jobs at the end of it.”

A certified master technician, Lesh recalls how he took an advanced diagnostics class some years ago from long-time RCC instructor Chris Simper. The course helped him prepare for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence’s advanced engine performance exam. Now he’s passing along that knowledge and carrying on a tradition of local automotive shops and dealerships “loaning” skilled mechanics to RCC’s program.

For RCC grad Joe Baker, Lesh was especially helpful in learning brakes and steering suspension. Lesh also helped Baker develop awareness of how professional shops operate.

“Dave has a bright, positive attitude, and he knows how to work and have fun at the same time,” Baker said. “He doesn’t just tell you, he shows you and coaches you and corrects you as you go along.”

RCC Automotive student hired upon graduating

When the economy crashed and his hours were cut, Joe Baker figured the time had come to make a career change.

A 2003 graduate of North Valley High School, Baker had worked in mills and cabinet factories, but with two young children, he needed steady employment.

“I’d heard good things about RCC’s automotive program,” he said, “and I’ve always liked working on cars.” So Baker became the first person in his family to attend college. He did well, graduating in 2011 with honors and earning a two-year degree and a one-year certificate in Automotive Technology.

He also received a job offer from Dave’s Import service, a long-established shop in Medford owned by Dave Facciuto since 1989.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing, and I like my job,” Baker explained. “We get to work on really cool cars. My goal is to earn more ASE certifications and just get more well-rounded in my skills.”

RCC’s automotive instructors bring real-world experience and expertise to the auto lab, according to Baker, who says they helped him prepare for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence exams. Baker is now ASE certified in brakes, heating and air conditioning, steering and suspension, and engine performance.

“Every one of the teachers is great,” he said. "Dave Lesh was especially helpful in teaching brakes and steering suspension and how professional shops operate," Baker said. A shop foreman in Medford where Baker now works, Lesh teaches Fridays at RCC, continuing a tradition of area shops and dealerships “loaning” skilled mechanics to RCC’s program.

“Dave has a bright, positive attitude, and he knows how to work and have fun at the same time,” Baker said. “He doesn’t just tell you, he shows you, and coaches and corrects you as you go along.”

Other RCC classes required to complete a degree proved personally and professionally useful, according to Baker.

“I liked my psychology class because it’s been helpful in everyday life, including parenting,” said Baker, who has a son, age 5, and a daughter, 7. Communication skills he learned such as public speaking, writing and grammar are essential, too.

“You don’t want to spell brakes wrong,” he said, laughing, “because you’re representing the shop. They’re all good skills for jobs where you’re dealing with people because you really can’t be shy when telling customers what’s going on.”

The RCC automotive program provided him a good foundation, he said, giving him the tools and know-how to get started. “But when you get out, you still have to be ready to keep learning,” Baker concluded.

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