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Introducing teenagers to the valuable career opportunities of automotive careers in Spartanburg, S.C. has high school students from six southern states looking at new possibilities. They get to see how vehicles are manufactured, delivered and serviced during a two-week educational program designed to introduce them to Automotive careers which is a field that has a growing demand for skilled workers.

The program, called "Teens and Wheels," will reveal what each career involves such as retail automotive service, and is set to dispel lingering myths and stereotypes. Program organizers hope to further strengthen that connection between the automotive services industry and exciting career opportunities in the minds of students, school staff, and hopefully, parents.

Teens and Wheels is being sponsored by BMW of North America at its Manufacturing and Performance Centers, in concurrence with Automotive Youth Services ( also known as AYES). The organization of automakers and dealers is dedicated to changing public perception of automotive services careers, and preparing young people for entry-level positions or advanced studies in the field school-to-career programs at the high school level academics, employability training, in-dealership experience and formal mentoring components.

"Careers at franchise automobile dealers are a growth industry," said Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW of North America, and member of the board of AYES.

"The jobs we offer are more sophisticated and better paying -- These are non-cyclical jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas. " Purves continued.

There are currently more than 104,000 career opportunities available at franchise dealers in the United States and more than half of them as automotive technicians. The U.S. Department of Labor projects another 35,000 new automotive technician jobs annually through at least 2010. As new vehicles become increasingly sophisticated and complex, the automotive industry must compete with other high-tech industries for skilled employees. Today's automotive technicians must possess keen analytic and computer skills to properly diagnose and repair these vehicles, and BMW and AYES are committed to providing the ongoing training required.

According to Russ Lucas, BMW southern region Aftersales manager, the program is a "win-win" for both the students and the 45 BMW dealerships supporting it.

Russ Lucas said the first program, three years ago, has "done wonders in terms of interest in technical careers and applications for BMW dealers. Several of the students who attended are now working at dealerships throughout the region."

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