The 20 most skilled automotive students from high schools across the British Columbia will be teaming brainpower with horsepower at the Ford, BCAA and BCIT Student Auto Skills Competition this Saturday. The annual competition, now in its 13th year, is aimed at encouraging careers in the automotive industry and raising awareness about the current and predicted shortage of qualified technicians in the automotive trade. The Business Council of British Columbia reports that in the decade between 1998 and 2008, 8,000 skilled technicians will be required to fill positions in the automotive trades sector –4,000 of them new positions – making it the fourth largest employer among the major trades in B.C. The Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC) predicts that the growing rate of retirement coupled with industry demands for well-trained workers will lead to a shortage of qualified trade and technical workers in B.C. “I’ve been in the automotive industry for 14 years and the increasing shortage of skilled technicians is definitely prevalent,” says Judy Jobse, service manager for Dams Ford Lincoln in Langley, B.C., where she manages 15 technicians. Jobse is the featured guest speaker at this year’s Auto Skills Competition banquet on May 2 where she’ll give students insight into careers in the automotive industry. “Trades and technical jobs will be hit the hardest when technicians retire–especially since the current average age of technicians is between 45 and 50. The Auto Skills Competition is one way we can draw young people to the trade and show them the benefits,” adds Jobse. This year’s Student Auto Skills Competition features qualifying high school students from Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Maple Ridge, Mission, New Westminster, Penticton and Terrace. The teams will compete in teams of two and be required to diagnose and repair identical malfunctions deliberately installed in vehicles. The first team to successfully start and road test their vehicle wins. Each student on the first place team will receive an automotive scholarship to the post secondary institution of their choice and an open scholarship to BCIT’s automotive program. Both first and second place teams will represent B.C. in the national final, hosted by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Oakville, Ont., on June 21.