Luke Jones has a lot to show for his career at Wayne Community College – two of the top awards and a job.

Jones, a Mount Olive resident, was presented the Outstanding Student Curriculum Award for the General Motors-Automotive Service Educational Program (GM-ASEP) and the Work-Based Learning (WBL) Student of the Year Award during the college’s 2022 Recognition Ceremony.

“One of the requirements of the GM-ASEP program is that students must be employed in a General Motors (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC) dealership for the duration of the program,” said WCC GM-ASEP Coordinator David Byrd.

The WBL program at WCC adds real-world work experience to classroom learning, bringing theory and application together. Students get academic credit for time on the job. WCC currently has more than two dozen programs that require WBL.

Luke did his WBL at Deacon Jones Auto Park in Smithfield.

“It is one of my favorite parts of the program. It is one of the reasons I chose ASEP,” Luke said of Work-Based Learning. “You get more training and you make money while in school.”

As a WBL employee, Luke started at “the bottom rung,” his supervisor said, responsible for such tasks as oil changes and light maintenance, but as time passed, his ability grew.

Luke said that he particularly appreciated having agreed-upon objectives for his WBL performance because “both of us got to say how it was going.”

“Deacon Jones GM in Smithfield has consistently spoken of how valuable Luke is to their business during the WBL experience,” Byrd said.

Trey Jones, Luke’s supervisor at his WBL workplace, said that Luke was deserving of the WBL award for his attitude and energy.

“He comes in ready to work. He is excited to be here. He is always doing something, going above and beyond,” Trey Jones said.

“Luke’s natural talent, along with the education he gets at WCC and hands-on experience with WBL will provide him with a promising future in the industry,” said Byrd.

In May, Luke graduated from WCC with honors and was immediately hired by Deacon Jones as a full-time GM technician. He is considering further training in transportation areas, like collision repair and refinishing or aviation systems. “While I’m young, I think I’ll get more education,” Luke said.

WCC’s Automotive Systems Technology GM-ASEP is a five-semester program leading to an associate in applied science degree. Students also earn related certifications as they study, including Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Student Certification, Snap-on Certifications, and North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Safety and On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) Inspection Licensure.

The certifications on top of the degree make WCC’s GM-ASEP graduates a hot commodity. “Those credentials speak volumes,” Trey Jones said.

Like Luke, most GM-ASEP students gain employment at the employer who sponsors their Work-Based Learning experience. Opportunities for advancement include service manager, parts manager, fixed operations manager, and more.

Wayne Community College’s GM-ASEP program is one of just three in North Carolina and 51 in the country. The program is accredited by the ASE Education Foundation which ensures that the training provided meets or exceeds industry standards.

Learn more about GM-ASEP at WCC on our website or contact Program Coordinator David Byrd at [email protected] or  (919) 739-6820.

More about Work-Based Learning options at WCC can be found on our website or by contacting Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Coordinator Kristie J. Sauls at [email protected] or (919) 739-7063.


Five Questions and Answers with Luke Jones

As a new graduate, do you feel ready for a job and a career?

The GM-ASEP program prepared me for the job I now hold by teaching me the fundamentals and giving me the knowledge and understanding of how systems on vehicles work. Through ASEP, I had access to a state-of-the-art facility and the same dealer equipment as the job I now hold to practice everyday tasks to better equip me for the workplace. It also put me in touch with great instructors, which opened the door for me to get hired where I am currently employed. GM-ASEP, without a doubt, set me up for a career by teaching me the skills and techniques to be competitive in the automotive field.

Young man in car.

You are a smart guy. Why didn’t you go to a university?
I chose community college instead of a university because I was unsure about the career path I wanted to follow. Like many others, I have always had an interest in cars since I was little, and a community college seemed like the best option to be able to pursue that interest and see if I wanted to make it my career. Another reason for choosing a community college is because it offers the same quality general classes needed to graduate with any degree, the same as going to a university but with smaller class sizes that are more individual and more personal to the student. I have met some great instructors and classmates, and I have built great relationships that I will never forget.

What would you say to anyone who is not certain about community college as an option for further education?
Just because you start at a community college doesn’t mean you have to end there. There are opportunities to further your education at a university or obtain certifications and degrees at a community college with the knowledge you learn. There are also agreements with universities to make transferring credits easier. For example, my brother Andrew Jones is transferring from Wayne Community College to East Carolina University to further his education and earn a bachelor’s degree. Community college is affordable, but you still have the chance to have the experience of college life.

And to those who think all they need is to finish high school?
For those who think a high school diploma is enough, I would say, there is so much more to strive for. For me personally, the benefits from investing a small amount of time in community college definitely outweigh the sacrifice. Having a degree opens up many more employment opportunities, sets you up to achieve higher lifetime earnings, and a better chance of promotions or advancements in the field you decide to go into. Every little thing helps you stand out from others less qualified in the field applying for that job. Having a degree also helps you be more confident because with the added knowledge and experience you have, the easier it will be to adapt to a new job or career.

WCC has been an educational destination for your family. Who else attended WCC with you?
My girlfriend Natalie Daughtry completed the Pharmacy Technology program last year and is now currently in the last semester of the Practical Nursing program, which means she will be graduating this summer. My brother Andrew Jones just graduated from WCC with an associate degree in IT Business Support. My half-brother Ryan Mills already graduated with an Associate in Arts and will be completing the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration (HVAC) program this summer.