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Auto Repair Can Steer Youths to Good Careers

Local high schools and the Regional Occupational Program offer classes that feed into advanced courses at community colleges.


Today's topic is careers for youth in auto repair.

Many high school students will read that last sentence and yawn. So let's put it another way: What do you think of a job that pays $30,000 a year straight out of high school or junior college? And, rises to $50,000 within two or three years?

That's what the future holds for young auto mechanics these days, according to Jeff Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, local affiliate of the American Automobile Assn.

He also says that excellent training programs are available for kids of high school and community college age in Ventura County. That's based on the performance of local students he has observed at the annual statewide automotive technology competitions conducted by AAA and Ford Motor Co.

According to Del Gates, automotive instructor at the Regional Occupational Program operated by the Ventura County superintendent of schools, kids from 27 local high schools are eligible to enroll at his facility in Camarillo--and bus service is provided from their regular school site.

But slots fill up fast. There is already a waiting list for the next school term--the one that begins after Christmas vacation. Anyone interested in this kind of training should start by contacting his or her high school advisor.

Gates also said that Buena High School in Ventura and Hueneme High School in Oxnard have strong automotive programs. These programs, and his own in Camarillo, feed graduates into the advanced automotive programs at Oxnard College and Ventura College.

It seems that a plain old high school diploma just won't get you very far these days. The good-paying jobs are going to the students who have had specific job training.

Yet, of all the 14-year-olds starting school this year in Southern California, only a fraction will go on to a university--one in five among Los Angeles' kids, according to authorities. And even a college diploma is no longer a guarantee of an adequate salary these days.


Major local auto dealerships and industry organizations regularly reach into the high school talent pool to fill jobs--or find candidates for further training. To graduates of Gates' program, the American Petroleum Institute's Tri-County Chapter regularly awards scholarships for further training at a community college.

Also available are scholarships from Ford Motor Co., part of what Ford calls its ASSET program-- Automotive Student Service Educational Training.

And this is no longer just a guy thing. At a recent state automotive technology competition sponsored by AAA and Ford, the winning high school team consisted of two girls, Stacy Govern and Mandy Andersen from Ramona near San Diego.

Govern has gone on to a Ford-sponsored training program, and Andersen is at UC San Diego in premed. Now reflect for a moment on which of them will have a steady income this decade.


* FYI: For information about automotive service technician's training for Ventura County youths of high school and community college age, contact your local high school. Or call the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Regional Occupational Program counselor at (805) 388-4430.

* FOR STUDENTS: The Automobile Club of Southern California also provides information on vocational programs and competitive events for student technicians in the tri-county area. Call (213) 741-4487 and ask for the Approved Repair Program.

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