RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Amid a national shortage of auto technicians, Wake Tech Community College opened the doors to a new, state-of-the-art facility designed to pump more professionals into the industry.
Gov. Roy Cooper and other elected officials were on hand Wednesday for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence, located on Wake Tech's Scott Northern Wake Campus.
The $42 million facility will allow the college to triple the number of students in its automotive systems technology program and add a new degree program in collision repair.
"The thing that keeps me up at night is worrying about whether we're going to have the people to fill all these good paying jobs," Cooper said. "So you know that after being here today, at least for one night I'm going to sleep like a baby."
Hendrick Automotive Group's $1 million endowment will go to support scholarships, faculty professional development, internships, equipment and technology.
"The training here is nothing like you've ever seen in the past," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Automotive Group. "This is one of the finest facilities in the United States."
There were nearly 1,000 job openings for automotive service technicians and auto body repairers in Wake County over the last year; Hendrick said he has been looking to fill 350 positions at his dealerships across 13 states.
"It's a great career," he said. "I started on cars in the service station, and I love the cars and that's what you see with these young people."
Hendrick said the future of the automotive industry will include a little bit of everything from electric vehicles to hybrid, so technicians need to be well-versed in their field.
"I've got students here that go to school and they come to work, work a couple of days and come back to school," said Hendrick. "When they finish they are ready to go so they step right in and they're ready to work right away."
The facility includes 16,500 square feet for an automotive systems lab and a 15,000 square-foot collision repair lab.
Other industry partners include Capital Automotive, Advance Auto Parts, and Axalta Coating Systems.