WEATHERFORD, Texas — The need for auto technicians is increasing, according to a study conducted by the TechForce Foundation. The report estimates that the U.S. will be short more than 600,000 automotive, diesel and collision technicians by 2024 if current trends continue to hold.
An initiative in Weatherford, Texas, hopes to spark a passion for the industry in the youth that attend an annual automotive summer camp sponsored by the Southwest Ford car dealership and Weatherford school district’s Career and Technical Education Program. The event, held June 9 and 10, included hands-on experience in combustion engines, diagnostics and the workings of electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicle.
Two of the 20 incoming eight-graders who attended the event were Gwen Hill and Bryant Davis. They had never met before the first day of the camp, which focused on building a working model of a V8 engine. While working alongside each other, they learned they have a lot in common.
Both are excited about starting their last year of junior high, both enjoy a good challenge, love soccer, and while both don’t know exactly what they want to do after college, the two of them love aeronautics.
Hill said she wants to join the Blue Angel Navy in the future.
“One of my cousins works for Lockheed,” said Davis. “He use to work for the flight simulator for the pilots and I thought that was really cool, so I’d love to work on that.”
As they worked for hours on the model engines, both said they were very excited and honored to have been chosen to take part of the camp.
“There’s 20 here, but there’s probably a couple hundred that applied,” said Davis.
All 20 incoming eight-graders were awarded this opportunity to learn about the auto industry.
“I could not speak, I was out of words. I could not speak, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” said Hill, as she explained how this opportunity was a highlight of her summer.
Travis Unger helped lead the event. He’s passionate about sparking an interest in these teens as the automotive technology instructor at Weatherford High School.
“My job is to teach everything about cars,” said Unger. “We talk about everything from the history of the automobile, all the way to diagnosing and repairing modern automobiles.”
Unger said seeing these students excited to learn about the industry he loves is like music to his ears, because figures show a transportation technician shortage continues to worsen here in the country.
One tactic to get the kids to fall in love with cars was showing them an electric blue Ford Shelby GT500. As a car enthusiast, Unger owns a metallic mist-blue 1955 Chevy.
“It’s had some minor restoration work over the years, but overall a pretty original car,” said Unger.
He hopes his passion for the industry will inspire some of these teens to consider making it a career.
“Our whole goal was just to get kids out here and get kids interested or build that interest in the automotive industry,” said Unger “This industry is hurting for technicians; it’s hurting for pretty much every facet of the industry, and so anything we can do to help boost that, we will.”
One by one, as the students finished their model engines, lighting up with excitement and a sense of accomplishment, Unger hopes maybe they’ll be future students of his once they get to high school.
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