KANSAS CITY, Mo.-A comprehensive survey by the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR) has revealed the need throughout the automotive education community to improve the facilities, equipment and continuing education opportunities available to school faculty in order to meet the increased need for highly trained auto technicians. CCAR's ``School Profile and Needs Assessment Survey of Automotive Education in the U.S.'' was distributed to 834 schools-half of them secondary, the rest post-secondary-in 48 states. More than 400 responded.
Kansas City-based CCAR is a trade association committed to increasing the professionalism of the automotive technician.
It said the industry currently has an estimated shortage of at least 60,000 trained technicians. At the same time, new federal and state environmental programs require automotive technology to become more complex, thus requiring higher levels of training.
A factor that may contribute to the tech shortage, CCAR said, is the lack of awareness about career opportunities in auto repair on the part of school counselors.
Half of the respondents felt counselors at their own schools have a ``very low level'' (22 percent) or a ``low level'' (28 percent) of knowledge about the school's automotive program and automotive opportunities.
These developments leave schools facing challenges in three key areas:
The equipment and training facilities available to students;
Fund raising support for programs; and
Ongoing in-service updating of the faculty and adopting new curricula to keep up with changing automotive technology and the focus on environmental issues.
Even though there is increasing computerization of automobiles, CCAR's survey found that the median number of computers available to students was only two. Some 86 percent of the schools have at least one computer workstation for use by students. However, only two-thirds of the institutions use their computers for ``automotive diagnostics.''
The lack of computers in classrooms and labs may be directly related to the equipment budgets of the schools, with almost half reporting they had problems getting their equipment repaired and 75 percent citing ``lack of funds'' as the reason. Relatively few schools had fund raising programs, according to the survey.
It also revealed a pressing need by most educational institutions for more storage and lab space, and more service bays.
The primary source of funding for auto-motive programs is state funds, while the source of funds showing the greatest increase was tuition, CCAR said.
Another critical area of concern was faculty education, with more than half (57 percent) of the participating schools reporting they had no ongoing continuing education requirements for their instructors.
Nearly all (96 percent) of the schools said that they offer some training to students in the area of vehicle emissions; 91 percent reported this training is in basic understanding of terminology related to emissions.
Eighty-three percent offer training on diagnosing emissions-related problems and 81 percent on repairing those problems.
Three-fourths of those surveyed have hazardous waste training in basic handling of hazardous materials and a basic understanding of terminology. Slightly over half the respondents said they offer training in the laws and regulations that deal with hazardous waste. Only 10 percent of the schools provide no training in hazardous materials, CCAR's survey revealed.