(IRWINDALE, May 8, 2006) — For the second year in a row, two students from Ramona High School in San Diego County beat a field of 38 other students to win the California 2006 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition Friday. The competition, sponsored by Ford and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.
Ramona High competed in the Southern California portion of the contest, held at Irwindale Speedway. It earned the state championship by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at Irwindale, as well as beating the score of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California.
Ramona students Ed Alldredge Waitm, 17, and Mike Funkhouser, 17, completed the Southern California hands-on competition in 23 minutes and 2 seconds, finding and repairing 10 problems with the vehicle. They each won a $32,000 scholarship to United Technical Institute and a two-year, $3,000 scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Co.'s ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) program. The winning Ramona High School team instructor, for the second year in a row, is Michael Jordan.
"The car that Ed and Mike repaired was clean — meaning they caught all the problems — and they repaired each problem perfectly," said Rick Lalor, event competition chairman and the Auto Club's motor sports manager. "The pair demonstrated careful workmanship and high-tech knowledge needed to repair today's vehicles."
San Luis Obispo High finished second in the Southern California competition, while Sultana High took third place. Dustin Kingma, 17, and Eric Tracy, 17, made up the second place team. Their instructor is Jeff Lehmkuhl. Sultana's team of Sam Gordon, 18, and Scott D. Peterson, 17, were third. Their instructor is Jay Winters.
The competition winners were determined by the combination of a two-hour written qualifying exam and the team's performance in a hands-on competition to repair quickly and accurately a deliberately disabled 2006 Ford Escape.
As statewide champion, the Ramona High team advances to the national finals in Dearborn, MI next month where $6 million in prizes will be distributed. The national champion will receive scholarships, awards and prizes valued at more than $70,000.
The Auto Club co-sponsors the annual competition to draw attention to the need to attract qualified students to high-paying automotive professions. Mechanics with two-year degrees will be able earn a starting salary of $38,000 annually, with salary growth up to $100,000 or more for master technicians.
Trained automotive technicians are among the most sought-after and highly paid professionals in today's job market, but many high schools are reducing or eliminating automotive programs due to lack of funding and/or trained teachers. The annual demand for qualified auto technicians exceeds the supply. The U.S. Labor Dept. estimates there is a need for 35,000 additional automotive technicians each year. AAA sponsors the skills contest as part of its educational efforts to attract and train more young people to the automotive professions.