DETROIT - A 3-year-old coalition of automakers is making a small dent in the chronic shortage of automotive technicians.
The coalition, called the Automotive Youth Educational Systems, has graduated 350 auto technicians since its 1996 inception. And at its annual conference last week, it launched a common automotive electrical systems curriculum for its 600 current students.
It is the first plank of a program that will soon include mechanical and diagnostic curricula, said Don Gray, president of the group.
The group has representatives from General Motors, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen of America Inc. The National Automobile Dealers Association is also involved, along with 1,036 of its member dealers.
Under the program, participating dealers get involved with technical high schools in their regions, sitting on curriculum planning boards, funding classroom improvements and offering jobs to program graduates.
AutoNation USA, the largest dealer chain in the United States, announced at the conference that it will encourage each of its 432 dealers to participate in the Automotive Youth Educational Systems program in their regions.
Brian Carlton, AutoNation's manager of national technical skills training, said each of the chain's dealerships needs at least one entry-level technician who has a basic knowledge of automotive repair. Each of the 17 AutoNation dealerships in Denver now has a graduate of the program working in its service department, he said.
The shortage of service technicians is felt by all manufacturers. Toyota will need 3,000 entry level technicians in the next 18 months, said Roger Foss, Toyota's national dealer support manager. A recent government report says 96,000 new technicians will be needed industry-wide by 2006.