Wake Tech celebrated the opening of its new Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence April 13. Governor Roy Cooper, automotive industry icon Rick Hendrick and other elected officials and industry partners cut the ribbon on the $42 million state-of-the-art facility on Wake Tech’s Scott Northern Wake Campus in Raleigh, N.C. The 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.
“We’re thrilled to open what is without a doubt one of the premier automotive training facilities in the country,” said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls. “Automotive maintenance and collision repair have changed so drastically, and technicians today need highly specialized skills. Now, we’ll be able to provide the Triangle’s many dealerships and service centers with the qualified workforce they need.”
The new facility was made possible by a number of industry partners, particularly Hendrick Automotive Group, for which the center is named. Hendrick Automotive Group has established a $1 million endowment to support students, faculty, staff and technology in the college’s automotive programs. The company employs more than 5,000 people in North Carolina, including nearly 1,200 in the Triangle.
Industry partners include:
- Capital Automotive Group, which donated $500,000 for student scholarships, faculty retention and support and student books and tools.
- Advance Auto Parts, which donated $250,000 to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups in automotive training programs through its Future Technicians Program scholarships. Beginning this fall, five students will receive $2,500 per year to cover tuition and fees, plus a $600 stipend for tools. The funds will also be used for student recruitment, tools and equipment.
- Axalta Coating Systems, which donated $250,000 for student scholarships and faculty support in the Collision Repair program. The company is also donating $65,000 for equipment and supplies.
- Other partners include Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association, Carolina Exotic Car Club, Leith Automotive Group, Crossroads Automotive Group, Cox Automotive Group, Northwood University, CDK Global, Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, Autocare Association and Rick Guirlinger, owner and president of Bourke Services.
“It’s incredibly important that the automotive industry continues to attract young talent by offering them the best possible education and career opportunities,” said Rick Hendrick, chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group. “This new educational center on the campus of Wake Tech will help address our longstanding need for qualified auto technicians. By collaborating with our manufacturer partners, Wake Tech has built a facility that will grow with our industry and prepare people for well-paying jobs right here in North Carolina. They hit it out of the park.”
Hendrick, who is also the owner of NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports, joined Dr. Ralls, Cooper, Wake Tech Board Vice Chair Kellie Falk and Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Sig Hutchinson in making the announcement.
“This center will help students expand critical skills and keep up with rapidly changing automobile technology,” Cooper said. “North Carolina is leading the way in the transition to clean transportation, and partnerships like this one between Hendrick Automotive Group and Wake Technical Community College strengthen our economy and secure our clean energy future.”
The Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence features a 16,500-square-foot automotive systems lab, named for Capital Automotive Group, with 13 lifts and two wheel alignment machines.
It also includes a 15,000-square-foot collision repair lab with six lifts, four paint booths and two frame straighteners. Other features include a performance lab for engine and transmission classes, dyno rooms for testing engines and transmissions, a welding lab, eight classrooms, three computer labs and a conference room. Glass walls allow visitors to view lab activity without disturbing classes.
“This will soon become a hub for industry activity of all kinds,” said Dr. Ralls, “a place for training in the latest technologies and trends, where students, expert instructors and industry leaders will be able to interact and learn from each other. Ultimately, that activity helps to drive our economy – and is a shining example of why I like to say ‘Wake County runs on Wake Tech!'”
“We’re extremely grateful for all our industry partners who have come together for this important project,” said Matt Smith, vice president and executive director of the Wake Tech Foundation. “The partnerships will attract students from diverse backgrounds to this field where they are needed – and help to keep our local automotive industry strong.”
Alex Tang, a 2019 graduate of Wake Tech’s automotive technology program, spoke during the program. He said he has a great career as a service technician at Hendrick BMW at Southpoint thanks to the training he received at Wake Tech and on the job at Hendrick Automotive Group.
“This moment is very special to me,” Tang said. “I want to thank all my instructors for giving me a chance to start a terrific new career. By teaching me everything I needed to know and being informed about the automotive industry as a whole, I was immediately prepared to apply the skills and knowledge to succeed.”