Tomorrow’s auto mechanics learned about the vehicles they may be working on during a recent visit to the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium at West Virginia University .

The students �€state finalists of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition �€toured NAFTC ’s headquarters and heard a presentation on alternative fuel vehicles and advanced technology vehicles. The group was in Morgantown to take part in a hands-on portion of the competition.

The objective of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition is to encourage high school students to pursue careers as automotive service technicians. Those who score highest on a written qualifying exam move on to the hands-on competition, which involves diagnosing and repairing a new Ford Motor Co. vehicle that has been bugged with malfunctions. Workmanship, speed and accuracy are determining factors, and the winning team from each state then moves on to the national finals.

NAFTC is the only alternative fuels vehicle and advanced technology vehicle training organization in the United States . The demand for specialized automotive service technicians is high, and the consortium participates in many education and outreach activities. The 36 high school juniors and seniors and their instructors viewed NAFTC ’s biodiesel production unit, a natural-gas powered car and two electric vehicles.

At the present time, there is a shortage of more than 37,000 automotive technicians, and it will be necessary to train an additional 35,000 technicians yearly to meet future demand. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, at least 20 percent of those automotive technicians need to be trained in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles �€a percentage that is expected to increase substantially as clean alternative vehicles become more available and of interest to consumers.

NAFTC ’s mission is to provide the training infrastructure for implementing the widespread use of alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles, increase the nation’s energy security and improve air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

More information is available on the consortium’s Web site ( ) or by calling 304-293-7882.