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Auto Mechanics Cannot Keep Up With Population Growth

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RALEIGH — Thanks to the population explosion, there is a shortage of vehicle mechanics; a good one is worth his or her weight gold, and they're charging accordingly.

There just are not enough good mechanics in town. And the ones that are here are in the driver's seat when it comes to their careers.

Dan Kearns is a first-semester automotive student atDurham Tech. When he gets his two-year degree, he will be a hot commodity, and he knows it.

"I knew there was a shortage, and you could make good money doing it, so I figured it'd be a good thing to get into," said Kearns.

Kearns is right.

Chet Nedwidek of HI-TEC Imports in Raleigh has been running ads and asking for referrals and still cannot find good help.

"Good technicians are really hard to come by, and most of them that are good are working right now," explained Nedwidek.

The ones that are working are lured away with incentives.

"We are using every means available to attract them -- pay, obviously, moving expenses are paid, signing bonuses are used," said Rick Temple, service director at University Ford.

Experts say mechanics are at such a premium because of all the people moving into the Triangle. There are more cars, while more students bypass automotives for computers and other high-tech careers.

"But this is high-tech. The typical car has an average of eight computers on board," said David Ronco, Durham Tech program director.

And that means students must make the grade. At Durham Tech, only three will graduate this year, not nearly enough to fill the dozens of openings in the area.

That is why dealerships have started sponsoring students, paying for tuition, books and on-the-job training. But, that is still not enough.

"We currently have four in training. It'll be another two to three years before they become really qualified people. I need 15 right now," said Temple.

Dealerships and community colleges recruit from high schools. Salary is based on training and experience.

A starting salary for an auto mechanic can range from $30,000 to $60,000 dollars a year.


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