The automotive technicians of tomorrow will be honing their skills today as they compete in the annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

More than 8,000 auto tech students vied for a spot in this year’s finals. Today, 50 two-person champion teams representing high school automotive technology programs from across the country will race against the clock and each other to diagnose and repair identically “bugged” 2008 Ford Focuses.

The winning duo will earn the coveted title of Best Student Auto Tech Team in the nation, plus scholarships and the opportunity to work for a week as honorary pit crew members for the renowned Roush Fenway Racing Team.

“This competition showcases the country’s brightest and best young technicians,” said Steve DeAngelis, Global Manager of Technical Support Operations at Ford Motor Company. “Vehicles are as complex as ever. That’s why Ford is proud to help provide the additional tools and educational experiences that really propel the students’ ability to deliver quality work, no matter the challenge.”

Two years ago, Paul Peters represented New York at the Ford/AAA finals. Today, at 19, he is practicing the skills he learned as a Ford technician for the F.G. Downing Towne Automotive Group in Orchard Park, New York.

“Participating in the competition gave my career a real jumpstart,” he said. “I learned a lot, and I also gained a lot of confidence.”

Peters says well-trained technicians are important to the success of any dealership.

“When you fix a vehicle right the first time, you run a better business because your customers are happy,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, employment for automotive services technicians is estimated to increase 14 percent between 2006 and 2016.

“Highly skilled and trained technicians will always be in demand and able to find work,” said DeAngelis. “We’re very proud to encourage these talented young people to pursue careers in the automotive industry.”