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Think AYES!

November 23, 2010
Demand high-and growing-for skilled auto techs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the auto-repair work force needs to grow by 35,000 technicians a year over the next decade to meet the sharply increasing demand. According to industry experts, the shortage is greatest for high-end diagnostic experts. Post-high-school auto repair programs that turn out highly skilled mechanics graduate 10,000 technicians a year at most, according to the Department of Education. "I see a reluctance in school counselors to let students take vocational courses," said Ralph McKinnon, who teaches auto mechanics to high schoolers in Burien, Wash., near Seattle. His school is part of a national coalition called Automotive Youth Educational Systems, based in Troy, Mich., that aims to improve car-related classes and provide students with apprenticeships. Jim Butcher, the AYES manager for Illinois, matches AYES students with area dealerships for the year-long internships. Call Butcher to at the CATA to discuss the program, at 630-424-6020. More than 675 AYES instructors and administrators- 9 from Illinois, including Butcher- and auto industry executives gathered in Detroit in July for the annual AYES Instructors Training Conference. Dinner speakers at the conference's onset included Rick Wagoner, chairman and chief executive of General Motors; and Gerd Klauss, Volkswagen president and CEO. During the conference's general sessions, several manufacturers said they would make their electronic technical data systems available to participating AYES schools. The addition would be a valuable classroom resource. Manufacturers also announced a new scholarship program to honor Jack Smith, the originator of AYES. Each manufacturer will make available a $5,000 scholarship to qualified AYES students. Conference sessions also focused on technology such as Hybrid systems, fuel cells and fiber optics. In the coming year, AYES will join with I-CAR-the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair-an international, not-for-profit training organization formed by the collision industry in 1979. The goal is to certify 20 high schools in I-CAR collision repair by the end of 2004. Last year, 867,000 technicians were available to work on 221 million U.S. cars. That came to one for every 255 cars. In 1994, the number was one technician per 218 cars. The comparisons are based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Automobile Dealers Association. Generally, auto repair training relies on schooldealer partnerships. "Such partnerships makes sense for dealers," said Pete D'Alessandro, the service manager at Lustine Toyota-Dodge in Woodbridge, Va. "The biggest problem for consumers today is having unskilled and underqualified technicians repair their cars, making incorrect diagnostic decisions. This leads to more problems and higher costs for consumers."