College Uses Record-Setting Car Show to Recruit Future Auto Experts
By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
An annual car show drew a record-setting crowd to Grand Island Saturday. As the Tri–City Street Rods Auto Exhibition wrapped up Sunday, the crowds kept coming.
But, experts say there are fewer and fewer people to work on those vehicles.
That's why one college took to the show to recruit.
Southeast Community College students showed off their skills, taking apart and reassembling an engine in less than 15 minutes.
It's a demonstration their instructor hopes will bring more students into the automotive field.
"There's just more jobs than we can fill," said Kevin Uhler.
Uhler said about 100 students graduate from their auto program each year, but it's not enough to fill the demand.
"We have a huge abundance of job opportunities for these graduates. Typically eight or 10 jobs per student every quarter," he said. "They say it's going to get worse and worse and worse as people retire and vehicles become more complex."
These days, Uhler said there are even opportunities for those who don't want to touch an engine.
"We have young men and women that are able to rationalize and diagnose a problem rather than actually getting dirty and fixing them," he said.
That might sound strange to some watching the demonstration at the 41st annual show.
"We started out with about 70 cars in the old concourse of Fonner Park," said Ron VonBehren, show chairman. "Now we have 128 cars in the show."
That doesn't include the bikes and tractors that drew people in.
VonBehren said Fonner Park's busy schedule – with a state cheer and dance competition and horse racing this weekend – helped boost their numbers.
"In between the dance contests, the cheerleading contests the fathers especially like to come over," he said.
Those Southeast Community students were part of the draw.
Also on display this weekend, the first Nebraska car to win the Ridler Award at the Detroit AutoRama show. VonBehren said the award is comparable to winning the Super Bowl.