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Strong outreach is key to building diversity within the industry, said Myra Dandridge, executive director of external affairs and public policy for the National Automobile Dealers Association.

NADA and the civil rights organization National Urban League have partnered for that reason, Dandridge said.

The organizations said they are collaborating on a two–part work force development initiative that will include a program focusing on hiring and training qualified female and minority candidates to become technicians, Dandridge said. It also will set up internships for students from diverse backgrounds with franchised dealerships, she added.

“We understand that there is a significant shortage in technicians, so we’re hoping this is going to help,” she said.

Minorities have historically been denied opportunities to enter the industry, so the program is an example of a step in the right direction, said Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.

“This is a good jump-start and a good step forward in order to try to create a pathway to give opportunities to individuals who may not have been aware of our industry,” Lester said. “The lack of awareness has always been an issue for us.”

More technicians are needed, especially in the age of the electric vehicle, he said.

Julie Herrera, dealer principal of Toyota of Cedar Park, near Austin, Texas, said she’s had 16 or 17 technicians come from local high schools.

Putting students on the technician career path is fun to watch, especially when they buy their first new cars and first new homes, Herrera said.

“We have to have them,” Herrera said. “The back end of the store, as everybody knows, that’s how we pay our bills.”

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