Tom Purves says it's time high school teachers stop thinking of car dealership service technicians as grease monkeys.
``Most educators think it's a less-than-wonderful occupation,'' said Mr. Purves, CEO of BMW North America L.L.C. ``They question whether there's any career associated with it. They think people get filthy dirty and don't have proper facilities.''
Mr. Purves has reason to be concerned.
* BMW projects that it will need 3,000 new technicians in the U.S. through 2010. That's eight or nine people for each BMW dealership.
* On Jan. 1 Mr. Purves becomes chairman of the Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) board of directors-the non-profit auto industry initiative that trains technicians for careers in automotive repair.
You would be hard pressed to find the stereotypical grease monkey in today's auto dealerships, Mr. Purves said.
``You go into 90 percent of franchised car dealerships today, it's not like that at all,'' the BMW executive said.
``And in some of the brands, like our own, they are particularly pleasant places to work. They (technicians) are working on electronics more often than they are working on oily mechanical parts.''
Mr. Purves will take over as chairman of Automotive Youth Educational Systems from Gerd Klauss, CEO of Volkswagen of America Inc., who noted on the AYES Web site that the car maker is ``very familiar with the European apprenticeship system where experienced mentors work one-on-one with young students to show them the ropes. They receive their `advanced education' both in the classroom and on the job. It's a system that works-and it's a strategy that's at the heart of AYES.''
Mr. Purves said one of his missions will be to meet with educators and attend educational conferences to get the word out about technicians and the field of automotive service as a career choice.
``We need to sell it to the educators,'' he said. ``That's the really critical thing. We need the kids to be encouraged to go along.''
Automotive Youth Educational Systems is a nationwide initiative among car dealers, auto makers and schools to groom high school students for careers as service techs. The group has about 4,500 participating car dealers.
The program was started by General Motors Corp. in 1997 and is supported financially by 13 auto makers.