DEARBORN, MI — Jeff Lehmkuhl is proud both as a father and an auto shop instructor.

His son Daniel — who is one of his students at San Luis Obispo High School in California — and teammate Austin Castro won the 2007 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills' national finals at Ford World Headquarters here.

They beat out 49 other 2-person teams of aspiring auto technicians from high schools in every state who raced against the clock to diagnose and repair cars “bugged” with identical problems. The winners took 49 minutes and six seconds.

In an effort to encourage students to pursue automotive careers, Ford and AAA handed out a total of more than $6 million in prizes and scholarships to the nation's top auto technology colleges.

Event manager Allan Stanley says, “It's essential to the motoring public that the automotive industry attract such driven and dedicated young men and women to keep America's vehicles operating safely and trouble free.”

Attracting young people to auto technology also helps ease a shortage of qualified technicians at dealerships.

“Ford and its dealer network offer these contestants and other talented young people unparalleled opportunities to train for a high-tech career with excellent salaries and great benefits,” says Darryl Hazel, a Ford Motor Co. senior vice president.