Earl Mowrey, of the Antique Automobile Club of America and in charge of the Club’s youth development program, worries about the ageing workforce in the car restoration industry. He was anxious that crucial restoration skills such as metal shaping and upholstering could be lost in time. Mowrey says, “We have a huge void. There’s been a generation or a generation and a half of missed opportunity.” The hope of the industry is therefore in the hands of passionate youth who have enthusiasm in getting old cars running again.
All is not lost, however, as students from Penn College seemed to be up for the job. From its humble beginnings, the vintage vehicle restoration course of Penn College was able to confer the degree to its first batch of 8 graduating students, and is now expecting 23 students to finish the course in 2016. Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport offers one of the very few programs offered in the US as a response for the need of refurbishing and maintaining North America’s approximately 10 million classic cars. They also offer scholarship programs for deserving students with a passion for the hobby.
Just recently, Penn College’s vintage restoration students also won the First Senior Award – the first for the college – during the Antique Automotive Club of America (AACA) sponsored Charlotte AutoFair in North Carolina. The winning restored car was a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport. These students, who are also members of Penn College’s Classic Cruiser’s Club, also bagged the First Junior Award for their restoration job at an Eastern Regional Fall Meet at Hershey, Pennsylvania last October. Vanessa Mathurin from Philadelphia and the club’s treasurer has this to say about their accomplishments: “Going to Charlotte was one of the best experiences I’ve had at Penn College. Being part of a team that was able to win a First Junior and First Senior in my time at school is amazing. It was great to meet and connect with people that were genuinely impressed and grateful that their hobby will not fade away with younger generations.”
Collision repair instructor Roy H. Klinger added, “The event at Charlotte was remarkable. The students not only had first-hand experience of being on a well-known NASCAR racetrack, they were also able to make great contacts with potential employers.” This underscores how high the demand is, wherein opportunities like these allow graduates to have a job or paid internships waiting for them at a shop, museum, private collection, or auction houses. Diane Fitzgerald who heads the Hagerty Education Program at America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington says, “There are jobs everywhere, because people are retiring”. Hagerty has provided nearly provided US$3 million in training and scholarship since 2005.
With such a high demand, scholarship programs, and lucrative work opportunities readily available, learning to be a car restoration specialist is easier to reach than ever before. Hopefully, this will be a big boost for later generations to fan their interest in maintaining these automotive legacies.
Second photo – http://news.psu.edu/story/353596/2015/04/17/penn-college-students-restore-1970-chevy-win-big-auto-show