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Auto Repair Can Steer Youths to Good Careers

Valley high schools and regional occupational programs offer opportunities for technical training.


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

Many high school kids 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 in the Valley--with the best high school automotive training program in Los Angeles located at North Hollywood High School.

And it's not too late for kids who have just resumed school to get involved "while they still have room to maneuver their schedule," said Quentin Swan, the California Department of Education's designated expert in this career category. But kids need to contact their principal's office pronto.

Swan also says that if their school doesn't have a strong automotive program on-site, it may be possible for kids to enroll in one nearby, such as at one of the Regional Occupational Programs operated by Los Angeles Unified and other school districts.

A plain old high school diploma won't get you very far these days. The good-paying jobs are going to the kids who have had specific job training or a college diploma.

Yet, of all the 14-year-olds starting high school this year in Los Angeles, only about one in five will go to a university, according to Day Higuchi, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the local teachers union. And even a college diploma is no guarantee of an adequate salary these days.

The program at North Hollywood High isn't just the best in the city, it provides some of the best high-school-level automotive training in America, according to officials of the Vocational, Industrial Clubs of America.

The clubs stage a national competition each year. Last spring, Jose Vix, a North Hollywood High senior followed an arduous series of local, regional and statewide competitions, which included written and hands-on tests of mechanical knowledge, to best all but one competitor in the national meet in Kansas City, Mo.

Toyota Motor Corp. is sponsoring further training for Vix at Citrus Community College in Glendora.

According to Russell Mukai, who directs the auto program at North Hollywood, local major auto dealerships regularly reach into the high school talent pool to fill jobs--or, in the case of Vix--to find candidates for further training.

"I can send you right into a job at a dealership," he tells his students by way of encouraging them to stick with the course.

Ford Motor Co. calls its particular recruiting effort ASSET--Automotive Student Service Educational Training, and each major auto manufacturer has a comparable program, said the AAA's Jeff Spring. Local dealerships are encouraged to help nearby high schools and junior colleges keep up with the latest technology.


* FYI: For information about automotive service technician training for kids of high school and community college age, contact your local high school. Or call one of your local school district's occupational centers:

Los Angeles Unified School District:

Mission Hills (818) 365-9645

Pacoima (818) 896-9558

Woodland Hills (818) 346-3540

Antelope Valley School District:

Lancaster (805) 948-7655 Ext. 263

William S. Hart School District:

Santa Clarita (805) 259-0033 Ext. 232.

* FOR STUDENTS: The Automobile Club of Southern California also provides students information on vocational programs in the Valley and nearby. Call (213) 741-4487 and ask for the Approved Repair Program.

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