Low enrollment an issue for Madison auto tech programs

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- With the winter weather we're experiencing, crashes on the roads happen often and it can be tough for auto shops to keep up.

An instructor at Madison College says there's another issue as well. Program Director Tim Hoege said he is concerned about a shortage of students interested in working in the collision repair industry and the overall impact this has on many of us.

Maria Jacque knows she entered the right career field, enrolled in Madison College's auto collision repair & refinishing program.

"I just realize this is the job for me because, desk jobs, I know I had a couple people wanting me to go into liberal arts and I just realized I love working with my hands," said Jacque.

Another student, Herpao Xiong, has a specific goal in mind after he is done with college.

"I want to hopefully be a painter so, right now, I’m learning how to paint, the basics, blending, tinting and stuff like that," said Xiong.

These two are excited to start working in the industry but Hoege said he's worried about enrollment.

"When I started 17 years ago, we use to have 40 first year students and 18 second year students and this year we have 16 students and only one second year student so we aren't going to have very many graduates this year to go out and work in the industry and a lot of the technicians that are out there are retiring," said Hoege.

"Trending, even over the last 17 years, it's gone down with technology programs and tech ed programs not in the high schools that has deterred students from coming to the technical industries… There aren't enough technicians in the shops and it's going to take longer to get your car into the shop after you've hit something or had damage done to get them repaired."

Hoege said the industry brings significant earning potential.

"The jobs start out at 15 dollars a hour after a two-year program and then it goes up from there. There are technicians in the field making over 100 thousand a year, no problem, and it's only going to get better from there… It is hard work but it is rewarding. If you're ready to work with your hands and create something that's beautiful again, this is the job for you," said Hoege.