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New Standards Specify Essential Skills Required By Automotive Students

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Skills in science, math, and language arts are just as vital to would-be auto mechanics or technicians as they are to college-bound students, according to a new standards document from an automotive-training foundation.

A nonprofit organization based in Herndon, Va., has identified 183 separate skills that should be learned by successful automotive mechanics and service technicians during their high school and postsecondary careers.

The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation Inc. received one of 22 grants for skills-standards development awarded by the U.S. departments of Education and Labor.

The skills document says, for example, that automotive technicians should be able to demonstrate a familiarity with at least 100 separate science concepts, ranging from heat transfer to electromagnetism.

They also should be familiar with at least 46 math skills, including precision measurement, ratios, statistics, tolerances, and the use of the metric system.

The document also calls for development of specific language-arts skills involving oral and written communication and reading.

Sixty certified automotive technicians drawn from various segments of the automotive-service industry served as consultants on the project. They helped identify the academic skills that professional automotive technicians use on the job.

The voluntary guidelines are designed to help districts create exemplary programs for preparing students to become automotive technicians.

Battling Miscommunication

Creation of a document that spells out exactly what academic skills should supplement hands-on training should help improve cooperation between academic and vocational-education departments, said Bob Weber, a spokesman for the automotive technicians' foundation.

Often, he said, a lack of communication causes students to enroll in redundant courses, or to miss important ones.

"When many of the academic departments found out about this study they said, `I didn't know [students] needed to learn that,"' Mr. Weber added.

The Vocational-Technical Education Consortium of States, part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Decatur, Ga., helped the foundation identify the math, science, and language-arts skills already embedded in the foundation's lists of skills for prospective service technicians.

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