"I'm learning a lot," says Brinson, 18. "It's a lot better than just having a teacher talk to you. When you get your hands on it, it's a lot easier to learn. I'd like to be a manager one day."
In the 2006-07 school year, the number of students AYES placed in service internships at new-vehicle dealerships was the highest since the organization began a decade ago. And AYES could do even more, it says, if more dealers would offer internships to students like Brinson.
"Internships allow the dealerships to test the fit of the student with the dealership philosophy and with the work ethic that the student brings," says Larry Cummings, AYES executive director. "It's not a job that's going to be exported."
AYES works with 415 high schools in 45 states. It arranged 1,817 internships in the last school year — a 4.1 percent increase from the previous year.
Master technicians at participating dealerships mentor the interns. Students who complete their internships successfully can apply to post-secondary training programs offered by the 12 automakers that are members of AYES.
But Cummings notes that fewer than one in four new-vehicle dealerships in the United States take part in the program.
Last year, he says, AYES could not place nearly 1,000 qualified students in internships.
A shortage of service technicians could be a serious problem for the industry. The U.S. Labor Department says dealerships must hire 35,000 technicians each year through 2010 to keep pace with anticipated demand.
Franchised dealerships employed 254,700 technicians in 2006, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.