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CATA to fortify AYES locally

November 24, 2010
Manager search underway

The CATA board of directors voted April 17 to hire an AYES manager and to install the apprentice technician program at more Chicago area high schools. Four schools participate now. Automotive Youth Educational Systems builds partnerships between dealerships and high schools with automotive service technology curricula. The mission is to create a pipeline of future technicians.

"All dealers say, 'If I could get a good, quality technician, I'd take him today,' " said Donald Gray, AYES president and chief executive. Gray attended the CATA board meeting, where directors committed to a three-year plan to bolster AYES locally. The CATA is preparing to interview candidates for the AYES manager position. One goal for the manager will be to involve more local dealerships in the yearlong student technician internships, which match students with mentors, usually journeymen technicians.

Just half of the 60 AYES students at four area high schools have been placed for upcoming internships at the 25 newcar dealerships that participate in AYES. Internships begin each June for students who will become high school seniors in the fall. A special AYES Dealer Mentor Training session will be held May 2 at Chicago's Farragut Career Academy, one of the participating high schools. For information about AYES, call the CATA's David Sloan at 630-424-6055.

To reserve a seat at the session, call Jim Foley at Farragut, 773-534-1300, or visit the AYES Web site at Nearly all automobile manufacturers support AYES, which operates at 250 schools in 41 states. The AYES program is important because 25 percent of 18-year-olds say they already have selected a career path. Exposing the interns to dealership work could sway them to a career there. Gray said educating children about dealerships can begin as early as kindergarten, with brief tours to show the children how a dealership operates.

"That's little time committed by the dealer, but it's a powerful impact on impressionable kids," he said. AYES can help reshape attitudes throughout a school, said Gray, who noted that technicians need a reading skill level equal to an electrical engineer and greater than an accountant. "High school counselors don't understand that the whole technician environment has changed. They describe such a career as a 'mechanic' who earns $18,000 a year and works on his back on a creeper, pulling out engines and working on pistons," Gray said. "Automobiles are very complicated products now.

If you can find the dipstick, you're thrilled." John F. Smith Jr., chairman of General Motors, said, "What we want the future to be is this: When a bright student with the right aptitude and a good work attitude comes in, the school counselor will say to him or her, 'Have you thought of an automotive career?' "