Saturday, July 6, 2002

(Continued from Page AUTO-1)
The Frederick News Post

Car and Truck Dealers Association's Automotive Youth Educational Systems program. AYES was launched in 1995 by John Smith when he was President and Chief Executive of General Motors Corp. He is now chairman.

The aim of the national program is to attract young people to careers as automotive technicians. It is a partnership among auto manufacturers, high schools and auto dealerships. It is sponsored by most of the world's larges automakers. Ther are seven AYES schools in Maryland.

Jack Westermeyer, an AYES instructor at Sellers Point, said the intention of the plan is two-fold: to solve the shortage of technicians and launch students into what can be a rewarding career field. It works like this: Students in the 10th grade are offered an introductory course in auto repair. It involves one hour and 45 minutes a day learning the basics of such auto systems as electronics, steering and suspension.

The best students, or those Mr. Westenmeyer calls, "the cream of the crop," take more advanced auto repair courses in their junior year and work in the service department of a car dealership over the summer months. By the time the students reach their senior year, half of the school day is spent working at a dealer's repair shop under the supervision of a mentor. The othe half of the day is spent in traditional classes such as English, Math and Social Studies. Students pay only $345 for a box of tools valued at $3,000. The tool manufacturer and a local car dealership pay the rest. "Each school does things a little different," said Mr. Westenmeyer, "but this is typical."

Harry Park, 18, is a graduate of the Sellers Point programs, and he believes that his is "set for life." He works at the Al Packer Lincoln/Mercury and Jeep dealership on Belair Road in Baltimore. Mr. park said he earns about $25,000 a year. "None of my friends are making anything close to what I'm making," he said during a break from performing a 50,000-mile tuneup on a Jeep Cherokee. "I get into this because I like working on cars," he said. "I didn't realize how much money I could earn. I plan to stay with it, continue training. I can make $90,000 a year."

Buddy Bowman, 16, an 11th-grader at Sellers Point, said he had planned to go on to college, but the auto repair program was a lot more fun. Now he talks about being able to support a family as an auto technician.

Mr. Glenn said the shortage of technicians dates back more than 10 years. As cars became more sophisticated and computer driven, he said, many of the older mechanics didn't want to take the training needed to stay on top of their trade.