New intern program at TUSD schools

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A major labor shortage may be looming for the auto repair industry and that could mean a longer wait to get your car into the shop and a higher bill when work is finished.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there will be more than 35,000 mechanic jobs available by 2024, as current mechanics and auto technicians retire but fewer enter the industry. According to a federal report published in 2012 nearly half of all mechanics are older than 45.

Faced with that reality the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce and Tucson Unified School District have launched a new program designed to get new graduates under the hood.

TUSD works with members of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce who say they need qualified, young mechanics to replace an aging workforce.

“I learned how to work on transmissions, engines, and wouldn't have had the time in class to do that,” said Matt Freeman, 17, a senior at Sahuaro High School, who worked at a mechanic shop over the summer.

“They all recognize the future drought of employees they are facing,” said Lori Banzhaf, Executive Vice President of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Ethan Copeland, 17, a senior at Sahauro High School says he was at least 10 years younger than his co-workers during his internship. “All these guys are older and retiring and these new guys can’t work on the new stuff because they don’t understand electricity and stuff.”

Jack Ramsey teaches automotive technologies at Sahuaro High and helped select the students for the program. Ramsey once owned his own automotive repair business, “Even 10 years ago I had trouble hiring qualified people.”

Ramsey says the internship program helps students learn more than they normally could in his regular class because they have entire days to work on a project. “It allows them see if this is something they're truly interested in and make this a career,” he said.

The school district and the chamber hope to expand the program to include internships in the hospitality, construction, health care, engineering and automotive technologies. “They can mold a student into a career path that's going to be their future work force,” explained Banzhaf.

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