The Automotive Youth Educational System (AYES), a nationwide initiative among car dealers, auto makers and schools to groom high school students for careers as auto mechanics, plans to expand beyond major metropolitan areas.
Students split their time between working with mentors in car dealership service departments and taking automotive service training classes.
But auto dealers outside large cities have been unable to participate because it often is too far for students to travel for classroom training. That has limited participation to about 4,500 car dealerships.
Larry Cummings, CEO of the $3.75 million nonprofit AYES organization in Troy, Mich., wants at least to double dealer participation.
So, the program will launch three pilot projects this fall in which participating students outside major metro areas will get classroom training in the dealership using the proprietary communications system that the dealer and auto maker use.
Henry Primeaux, dealer principal at Crown Bristow Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Bristow, Okla., said rural dealers will benefit from the program.
Mr. Primeaux has hosted 12 students since 1992 at his former Tulsa dealership and now his Bristow store.
The industry must replace about 60,000 mechanics in the next five years, Mr. Primeaux said, and the program is one way to help make a dent in that shortage.
``The real worth is a valuable employee,'' Mr. Primeaux said. ``And in our business today, we just need that terribly. Plus they are competent because we are training them our way.''
In the pilot program planned for this fall, schools will not provide the curriculum.
``We own our own curriculum,'' Mr. Cummings said.
Auto makers generally use a satellite broadcast to reach their dealers, while some use the Internet.
``This would open the door to everybody,'' Mr. Cummings said. ``Right now we are only where the schools are.''
There are 370 vocational schools nationwide that provide automotive curriculum in 45 states. For example, Lafayette, Ind., where Mr. Cummings formerly owned an Oldsmobile-GMC store, has no automotive school program.
``But you've got really good dealerships there that need young men and women to enter this profession,'' Mr. Cummings said. ``So we will be able to deliver that to those Lafayette dealers.''
Locations not picked
The Automotive Youth Educational System has not determined where the pilot programs will be held.
Mr. Primeaux, a member of the group's advisory board, said that all of his students went on after high school graduation to the two-year Chrysler Dealer Apprenticeship Program.
``The first one that I hired back in 1992 is still with me,'' Mr. Primeaux said. ``When I sold my large dealership and bought the one here in Bristow, he came with me, and he's my master technician now. He's in line for a management position whenever he wants it. But he's just very happy fixing cars.''
The Automotive Youth Educational System is the brainchild of former General Motors Corp. Chairman Jack Smith.
It was launched in April 1995 to address the scarcity of qualified entry-level service technicians. At that time it was known as GM Youth Educational Systems.
The organization's name was changed after 30 schools agreed to participate.
The former Chrysler Corp. became the second auto maker to join in 1997. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. joined in 1998.
The program is financially supported by 13 car makers. Each auto maker's annual contribution is calculated based on the number of dealers and its market share.
General Motors ``is the largest contributor because they have the largest number of dealers and the largest market share,'' Mr. Cummings said. ``AYES gives young men and women an opportunity to get into an occupation that's going to earn six figures in 10 years.''
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Among the companies that support the Automotive Youth Educational System (AYES) program are:
* Manufacturing partners including DaimlerChrysler, General Motors Corp., BMW, Honda Motor Co., Audi A.G., Volkswagen A.G., Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., Subaru of America Inc.
* Supporting financial partners including Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp., Universal Underwriters Group, BASF, Castrol, Snap-on Tools, SPX Corp., Akzo Nobel, Hunter Engineering Co. and the National Institute of Automotive Excellence (ASE).