Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), an automotive industry solution to the nationally recognized shortage of automotive technicians, and its 14 partnering manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association honoured Chris Shahsiah, a high school senior at Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center in Virginia Beach, as its 10,000th mentored student intern during its annual Instructors Conference. The conference kicked off Monday, July 17 for more than 700 high school automotive technology instructors and school administrators from across the country. This lucrative and rewarding career is often overlooked by students, parents and high school counsellors. However, salaries can range from $30,000 to $70,000 or more annually, depending on location and training level. And, auto technicians are in high demand — The U.S. Department of Labor cites an annual need for 35,000 entry-level technicians for the remainder of this decade. Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of the General Motors Corporation and current Chairman of AYES, notes the significance of the 10,000th intern and of the program itself. “The continual growth of this program and the placement of even more skilled technicians are extremely critical for all of us in the automotive industry,” says Wagoner. “AYES is an extraordinary opportunity for us to share our collective passion for the automotive industry by educating, inspiring and motivating the technicians of tomorrow,” says Wagoner. “Each year our student participation increases by more than 20 percent, with a record 1,800 participants enrolled last year, leading up to the historic 10,000th placement this summer.” Shahsiah, who will be a senior in the fall, is currently employed by Hall Chrysler of Virginia Beach, Va., as a mentored intern and is a dedicated student with a 3.0 grade point average. Shahsiah’s work ethic led him to be the team leader in his class and lab at school, and the automotive tech student looks forward to working in the real-world environment of the dealership this summer. “It is an honour and a once in a lifetime opportunity to be recognized as the 10,000th AYES intern,” Shahsiah says. “The program’s in-class instruction, combined with real-world working experience has convinced me that this is the career I want to pursue.” Shahsiah’s mentor, Jamie Payne, is also an AYES graduate, and was one of the first AYES interns to complete the program at Virginia Beach Tech in 1999. Payne’s service director at Hall Chrysler, John Dueso, is also an alumni of Virginia Beach Tech and knows the value of AYES’ “grow your own” philosophy of training automotive technicians. Dueso has hired over 25 AYES interns over the past nine years and serves on the AYES Business and Education Council at the school. “What makes AYES so important to dealers across the nation is the opportunity to grow our new technicians from our own backyard,” said Dueso. “We not only help them job shadow, but provide a senior technician who has been trained to mentor this computer savvy generation of students. Those who are truly interested in the career are fully prepared to enter the field and go on to manufacturer post-secondary training in our local community college,” Dueso added. “As long-time supporters of the AYES program, we couldn’t be more proud of the fact that the 10,000th intern has selected Hall Chrysler for his summer of real-world work experience,” adds Tom LaSorda, Chrysler Group President and CEO. “AYES has been an outstanding program to be involved with right from the start. By developing the work ethics and skills required to be successful, interns such as Chris Shahsiah are proving that the AYES program really works. It works for the students by promoting the development of excellent skill sets, and it works for the dealership by allowing them to recruit and grow- their-own technicians at a local level.” AYES began in 1995 as an industry solution to engage young men and women to enter the career of automotive technology. It is a unique partnership among the 14 major automotive manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association, 35 State Automotive Trade Association Executives and 20 State Departments of Education. It is dedicated to developing outstanding automotive programs which include strong academics, SkillsUSA employability training, C- CAR Safety and Environmental certification and in-dealership work experience with formal mentoring. “AYES is pleased to achieve the milestone of helping 10,000 quality young men and women to enter this important and well paying career in dealerships,” said AYES President and CEO Larry Cummings. “Our 425 high schools in 46 states provide not only a valuable education-to-career experience, but encourage all participating dealers to work with their local schools to enhance their communities,” Cummings said. “Beginning in 2007,” Cummings added, “AYES will be able to offer the AYES process online to students and dealers not served by an AYES-affiliated school, and to online learners of all ages.” Online development is being funded by a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Labor’s High Growth Job Training Initiative.