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Auto tech: Cost-effective, popular, necessary page 2
Will the new Stafford High be a better Stafford High? By Robert Jett

 Vocational education, such as Stafford High School's automotive-service-technology program, should be retained in the planning and design of the proposed replacement school.
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Date published: 11/11/2012


Shuttering the program also would be understandable if it were losing relevance in the job market; once again, the opposite is true. A Manpower Group survey includes mechanics as one of the "Top 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill." The Bureau of Labor and Statistics cites median wages of $35,790 for auto techs with a high school diploma, and projects a 17 percent increase (more than 100,000 positions) by 2020.

The automotive program at Stafford High is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, requiring students to meet standards in electrical, braking, suspension, steering, and engine performance. It takes two years to achieve this accreditation; both instructors completed 40 hours of annual training to maintain it. In Stafford County alone, there are 112,000 cars, and each will eventually require the services of a skilled automotive technician such as those who have graduated from Stafford's program and live and work (and pay taxes) in the county.

After listening to these points at a recent meeting, the School Board began to embrace the idea of partnering with Germanna to use its new automotive facility about two miles from Stafford High. Initially, it seems like an attractive option until it became clear that the space Germanna will provide us is insufficient; it cuts in half the number of Stafford students who can take auto tech--from more than 110 to about 60, with no room for the program to grow.

Germanna is offering use of two bays with one instructor; Stafford now has six bays and two certified instructors. Busing students to the Germanna site also means the continued annual expense of a bus, fuel, and driver, as well as the cost in time since the bus trip will take 20 minutes--10 minutes each way--of an 85-minute block. Germanna's cooperation is certainly appreciated, but it should not be presented as a viable option in light of these shortcomings.

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