For Immediate Release
June 20, 2008

Two Illinois high school students to compete in national automotive skills competition

ISBE & IDOT congratulate two Willowbrook High School graduates for winning statewide competition

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) applaud two Illinois high school seniors for earning a spot in the 2008 national Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition next week in Dearborn, Mich. The annual contest involves hundreds of high school students throughout the nation who complete a written exam and a hands-on competition that tests their knowledge of auto mechanics. The 2008 graduates from Willowbrook High School in Villa Park won the statewide competition in May at the AAA headquarters in Chicago.

Kyle Shanahan, 18, and Steve Mussatto, 18, will compete against multiple two-member student teams on Monday, June 23, and Tuesday, June 24. The two-day competition includes a 100-question written exam and a 90-minute, hands-on competition in which the student teams diagnose and repair a deliberately disabled test vehicle, such as replacing spark plugs, fuses, window switches and other parts. More than $7 million in college scholarships will be awarded to winning teams.

“I congratulate our two Illinois students and wish them luck in the national competition. From an educational standpoint, automotive technology is multi-disciplinary in that it reinforces the core subjects of science, mathematics, reading and writing,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “These learning opportunities that support both the rigor and relevance of the curriculum are a critical aspect of student learning.”

The contest is designed to encourage talented students to pursue careers as automotive service technicians. Both state and national competitions are open to schools that offer courses in automotive technology and have at least one full-time or part-time automotive instructor. The competition is co-sponsored by AAA and Ford Motor Company.

“This is a chance of a lifetime for these students – to qualify for nationals and be a state champion representing the entire state,” said Brian Elliott, an automotive technology instructor at Willowbrook for DuPage High School District 88. “There is a desperate need for skilled automotive technicians.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the need for qualified technicians will grow by between nine and 17 percent through 2014. Starting salaries for certified, entry-level technicians can range from $30,000-$35,000 per year. Individuals who become master auto technicians in some areas can earn as much at $70,000 and $100,000 annually.

"IDOT warmly congratulates the two student winners who will represent Illinois in the national Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, as well all the students who took part in the competition," said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. "We know that these young people are gaining valuable technical skills and problem-solving experiences that will stand them in good stead no matter what career path they choose to pursue."

Here in Illinois, automotive technology is part of the state’s Career and Technical Education programs. CTE programs across the state offer students’ opportunities in career development, occupational preparation, academic improvement and postsecondary education in the five occupational areas: agricultural education; family & consumer sciences; technology & engineering education (industrial); business, marketing, and computer education; and health science technology.

Other Illinois CTE facts include: