More young people would become automotive technicians if they put the old grease monkey image out of their minds.
A coalition of car dealers and manufacturers is attempting to do just that: Elevate the image of the auto mechanic to potential job candidates.
Automotive Retailing Today-a group in McLean, Va., conceived in 1997 to improve public perception of auto retailing-is launching a $275,000 publicity campaign that will include talk-show appearances, speeches to target groups and a Web site providing information on the auto technician field.
The Web site will offer links to local training programs, auto manufacturer training programs, dealer associations and organizations such as the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), in Leesburg, Va., which certifies technicians.
Research by Automotive Retailing Today shows that when told that auto technicians can earn $70,000 to $100,000 at the master-technician level, 69 percent of the young people surveyed said they were more likely to consider a career as a technician. Before being told what technicians can earn, just 21 percent thought the job offered good pay.
Only 2 percent of teenagers surveyed said they were interested in an auto career, in either sales or service, according to Automotive Retailing Today. That is well behind health care, which topped the list of professions with 18 percent of the teens interested, and the high-tech fields, with 7 percent.
The organization intends to try creative approaches to reach job candidates, such as:
* Provide information on an automotive technician career to the military's transition assistance program, which offers career guidance to people leaving military duty, and to the federal Department of Labor's network of career centers.
* Develop educational programs with minority advocacy groups.
* Develop literature aimed at parents. Eighty percent of the youth surveyed in Automotive Retailing Today's research said they trust their parents' advice most in making career choices.
``We had a brainstorming session with dealers, manufacturers and educators,'' said Denise Patton-Pace, vice president and executive director of Auto Retailing Today. ``We collected over 100 pages of ideas on what needs to be done.''