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Area's AYES program embarks on the new year with momentum

November 23, 2010
With so many vehicles on the road in Illinois, particularly in the Chicago area, the need for new technicians is a growing concern. Automotive Youth Educational Services attempts to meet that need by working with area high school automotive programs to place qualified students in entry level technician positions. Three years ago, when AYES launched in Illinois, the initiative's success was uncertain. As with all programs, there is a learning curve. The schools have tightened their requirements for qualified students to secure an internship, and dealers have realized that AYES offers them a chance to "grow their own" employees. The future of AYES appears bright locally, thanks to funding from the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association. Four area high schools participate in AYES: Currie Metro and Farragut Career Academy, both in Chicago; Lake County Technical Center in Grayslake; and Technology Center of DuPage in Addison. Since 2000, the schools have placed almost 70 students at area dealerships. Jim Butcher, the state's AYES manager, said he hopes to place 60 more students into area internships this year. "Sixty students will about max out the four participating schools," said Butcher, who keeps an office at the CATA. "The dealer group is beginning to turn out for this program. We are seeing some real positive responses to our students," Butcher said. "I haven't spoken to any service manager who is unhappy with one of our AYES students." Butcher's tasks include helping more high schools to gain AYES certification, usually a two-year process. He also interacts with dealerships and the students and their parents. "Our children grow from an early age with a desire to become policemen and firemen. Why? Because the school system does an excellent job of taking the children on field trips to police and fire stations," Butcher said. "The question for our industry is, Why aren't these children out visiting dealerships?"