Auto technology is a viable and lucrative career. The training needed to excel as a master technician has become as demanding as traditional degree programs.

Automotive technology demands aptitude that understands the ever-changing and complicated equipment on today's vehicles.

Just being a “car nut” will no longer get you far on an automotive career path. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has a slogan regarding its certification: “It's not just a patch… it's a passion.”

Passion is implied for success in any career, but more than ever, a high school diploma, secondary education through a manufacturer, mentored on-the-job experience and continuing certification through programs like ASE compose the only recipe for a future in the automotive service business.

In addition to having a technology skill set, some technician training programs also include course work in mathematics, physics, interpersonal communications and business management. These certification requirements all work toward the same goals: training technicians for the modern workplace and enhancing the reputation of automotive technology.

The top-down communication is imperative at an individual dealer level as well. Not only should technicians be required to certify their talents but service department managers should be proactive in improving their skills and investing in their leadership.

They are the facilitators of the training provided by programs like ASE. Service department managers are the gateway to opportunities for technicians to stay current and continue to propel the career toward a level of respect and excellence.

If managers and dealer principals aren't taking advantage of manufacturer programs that are available and conveying the lessons learned to their employees, they are holding all of us back.

Most auto makers today sponsor or support post-secondary initiatives through local community colleges or training providers' certificate programs.

These programs provide the student with the opportunity to study and learn manufacturer's proprietary training information.

That is essential in terms of accelerating and enhancing the technician's product knowledge. It provides value to the dealership that provides the employment opportunity.

Many of these post-secondary initiatives allow students to “earn while they learn.” They gain important knowledge while being able to pay the cost.

We all know that as the cars and trucks of today become more complex, manufacturer's branded training becomes more important in both the short and long run.

This is a great career for those with the passion and the education necessary to help the technician make a difference.

A Harris Interactive study, commissioned by Auto Retailing Today, notes that there are more than 37,000 service department jobs available in dealerships nationwide.

Let's work together as an educational community to ensure those positions are filled by individuals who are trained and prepared for the task to help push automotive technology to the forefront of careers in demand.

Larry Cummings heads Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), a partnership of auto makers, dealers and state departments of education that trains and places technicians in dealerships. See www.ayes.org.