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How’s Business?: Car care

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We are constantly hearing and reading about many jobs that are being lost overseas. And for those with the right dexterity, a real in demand gem of a career that cannot be farmed out is the automotive service technician.

If we go back to the ’50s and ’60s, he was the guy we used to refer to as the “grease monkey,” or the guy who dropped out of school early because he wanted to tinker with cars. Well, he or she is not just a mere auto mechanic anymore. Today they are referred to as automotive service technicians. And in today’s world it’s a very specialized profession.

Gone are the days when you could start a stalled car by just popping open the hood of that car and playing around with the butterfly in the carburetor. Cars are completely computerized, so when your car stops you’re stuck.

Unlike the days of yesteryear, a change in aspirations of the many now rising through the ranks has left quite a void for this field. There is a nationwide shortage of about 60,000. And it’s not getting any better with the U.S. Department of Labor expecting the shortage to swell in excess of 100,000 next year.

The average New York area automotive dealership serviced in excess of 15,000 vehicles in 2002 alone, with even higher figures anticipated for 2003. But we lucky people live in Queens — and it’s Queens to the rescue. How’s that, you may ask?

The growing shortage is going to be attacked by the Greater New York Automotive Dealers Association in College Point. The association plans on plunking down $25 million for a training center for automotive technicians with completion tagged for early next year. And it will be in the vicinity of the New York Automotive Dealers Association headquarters in Queens.

Student capacity is expected to be about 1,000, with the association planning on churning out about three-quarters of those participating as graduates. With those kinds of numbers it could actually become difficult to find a comparative profession offering such job security. It’s an opportunity for those who are adept in this field in commanding both excellent financial compensation and even avoiding what is known as the daily commute.

So how’s business for the automotive technician? If your passion is that of the four-wheel variety, then your ship has docked big time with a very bright and long-lasting future.

Joe Palumbo is the fund manager of The Palco Group, Inc., an investment company, and can be reached at palcogroup@aol.com or 718-461-8317.

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