- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

Ford Motor Co. has put its money where its (proverbial) mouth is.
In fact, Ford has anteed up $1 million to open state-of-the-art training centers for youths and young adults.
The money has gone a long way toward opening two new centers at the Marshall Academy at George Marshall High School in Falls Church and at Montgomery College in Rockville that will train young technicians for careers in automotive technology.
The Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA) has partnered with Ford in the training program.
The WANADA-Ford Automotive Apprentice Program matches qualified, motivated students with leading dealerships and provides participants the support and education necessary to build a career in automotive service.
The operative word here is "career." Automobiles now and in the future must be serviced by motivated, well-educated technicians.
These technicians must master many skills, including computer technology, mathematics, electronics and the theory of each component used in modern automobiles.
Such mastery demands an ongoing curiosity, self-discipline, motivation and pride in one's job.
Fixing automobiles is no longer a trade sought by high school dropouts or those who "couldn't do any better." Automotive technology is a profession, legitimate as any other; one that requires just as much training and dedication to succeed. Those who are successful can expect six-figure incomes.
Ford knows this. In partnership with its dealer network, the company is doing everything possible to help stem the current shortage of qualified technicians. (There are about 35,000.)
In Washington, Ford's $1 million incentive will provide cash, vehicles, tools and equipment, instructor training, components and facility improvements over a three-year period.
The training program is designed to provide broad-based automotive-systems knowledge.
Two distinct initiatives Ford Maintenance and Light Repair, then in-depth instruction in engine repair; performance; automatic-transmission repair; and brake, electrical, suspension and climate-control systems make up a 30-month education program that will bring successful students to competence levels sufficient for full-time employment in dealerships.
Further, such training will enable technicians to achieve master certification and ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) accreditation.
As a special incentive, each year Ford Motor Co. will award the top student at each school a two-year scholarship to any one of the 59 colleges across the country that are part of the Ford ASSET Program. ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) is a separate two-year curriculum during which students alternate between classroom studies and work at their sponsoring dealerships.
Students who complete the program can receive an associate's degree in automotive technology, which certifies them to handle high-level diagnosis and repair.
So what do the students think about all this? Nam Nguyen, Luis Urruta and Kenneth Fox are enthusiastic about such programs.
Mr. Nguyen's father runs a transmission shop and is highly supportive of his son's decision to pursue automotive technology. Luis Urruta currently works at an Ourisman dealership, and Kenneth Fox works at a Sheehy dealership, both supported in their choice of career by their parents.
All three students take night courses at the center, and all three look forward to a lifelong career in the automobile industry.
In a country that graduates nearly seven lawyers for every engineer, it's about time someone puts a little emphasis on careers that contribute to the everyday functioning of American society.
In its Youth and Adult Automotive Training Centers, Ford and its dealer network have gone a long way toward giving young people a chance at a rewarding career.
At the same time, they've helped support local business and community spirit.


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