The automaker is a partner with New Community Corp., which claims to be the largest nonprofit community development organization in America, Ford invested $1 million in curriculum , tools, equipment and cash for the group's Youth Automotive Training Campus to train people who are between ages 18 and 24 and considered 'at risk.'
Students will be educated using a vehicle maintenance and light repair curric ulum developed by Ford and taught by Ford-trained automotive instructors.
'This is a winning formula for everyone involved,' said Mike Jordan, vice president of the Ford Customer Service Division.
'Not only doe s New Community Corp. get state-of-the-art Ford diagnostic equipment and tools students can use for training, our New York area Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers get a steady stream of well-trained prospective employees to meet the demand for entry-level service technicians.'
The training center is modeled after a 'Quick Lane' service center at Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers.
The 12-month course is divided into a nine-month basic automotive training se ction and a three-month Ford certification course. Students are trained in electrical system, heating and air conditioning, alignment, suspension, steering and brake repairs.
After completing training, students receive Ford's Mai ntenance and Light Repair certificate and the opportunity to work at a dealership. These are entry-level positions, and graduates can continue their education while on the job to become fully certified Ford service technicians.
The center is the brainchild of Richard Liebler, president of Hillside Auto Mall, a Ford dealership in Hillside, N.J., In 1996, Liebler donated $100,000 to start the community group's Youth Automotive Training Campus and worked con stantly to interest Ford in taking part in the project.
Liebler said the program is 'truly about giving a second chance' to youths. 'We don't care about past history,' he said, noting that some of the students have criminal records.
For each class - the fourth is beginning - 40 students are accepted and 20 have graduated. However, none of the graduates has returned to the streets.
'There's a tremendous drawback to the streets,' Liebler said, explaining the dropout rate. 'A major part of our program is deprogramming them off the street mentality.'
The goal, he said, is to have these technicians earning middle-income wages - $40,000 and up - in five or six years.
Jordan said a similar Ford-funded program opened in Chicago, though that program is on the high-school level. He anticipates others in the future, including one in Detroit.