Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Richard Daku of Daku’s Auto Body Shop in Catasauqua, PA has been involved with his local Career Technical Education (CTE) school for over three decades. “Our industry has always been in need of qualified technicians, and I started working with schools in the late 1980s because I believe shops being more involved with the students helps them stay interested in the great career options the collision repair industry offers,” he explained. “Being a family-run business for nearly 73 years, it’s important to me to make this industry the best it can be to attract the next generation,” Daku added. “You can make a great career repairing cars and trucks as well as a decent living –without all the college debt!”Daku Auto Body is a staunch supporter of the Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech School (BAVTS). According to Bill Gruschow, collision instructor at BAVTS, “Daku Auto Body supports BAVTS by being an active Occupational Advisory Committee (OAC) member. Their advice as to what is expected of an entry level tech has influenced the program curriculum. This allows us to ensure that what we are teaching the students is knowledge they will need once in the workforce. They have also influenced industry certifications, namely I-CAR, offered to students.” Getting involved is easy –Daku says he simply “attends advisory meetings twice a year and helps with advice on equipment and technology. Changes in the program may be slow because of the pace of technology, but learning the basics is still the same, and that’s where you need to start. Several years ago, there was a big increase in student interest in the auto collision program because of custom car and rebuilding shows on television, but the interest seems steady now.” Daku Auto Body is also “an eager employer of our students and has hired too many to count!” Gruschow stated. “It seems that every year there is at least one student hired. Some have stayed there and are still there, others have advanced, but some did not work out. Daku Auto Body has persevered to provide opportunity to our students. We are greatly appreciative of their continued support!” “When we find the techs who are motivated and willing to learn, we keep them and work with them to help them grow,” Daku added. Jason Fritz, a former BAVTS student currently employed at a technician at Daku Auto Body, shared, “I worked for Daku’s Auto Body on co-op. They worked closely with the school to provide a platform for me to learn and grow in the industry. After I graduated, they offered me a place to work and where I could continue to develop my skills.” Although Fritz received “an education that allowed me to start in the field with the general knowledge needed to help a body shop,” he believes, “You need active collision professionals involved with the schools because this is an ever-changing industry. Constant updates are made to repair procedures, materials, and techniques… Trying to keep up-to-date with all of it can be challenging.”
Gruschow agreed: “Local shops and industry professionals who support the program have a profound effect on our program and our students. Their observation, support and advice about the program allows us to provide instruction that is pertinent for entry into the workforce and prepares students to grow as they advance their place in industry. When a student returns for co-op meetings and shares their experience with classmates, many light up by seeing a true opportunity that is within their reach.” “Schools should provide a clear path to entry in industry, right out of school,” Gruschow added. “With support from industry, courses are guided in the right direction to achieve student preparation. It is very clear that there is a technician shortage, we also know how challenging it is for a young person to enter into employment. Shops that are willing to take a chance, hire and coach a student, are often rewarded with a quality technician.” The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) is a 503(c)(3) nonprofit organization that facilitates the industry’s generosity by investing in collision repair educational programs around the country, helping equip school shops, and funding student scholarships, among many other endeavors that serve to attract, properly train, and retain more qualified collision professionals. Since 2009, the Foundation has been able to provide over $300 million in support to schools and students through the industry’s donations. CREF’s efforts manifest as scholarship, tool and equipment contributions, parts donations, and initiatives to help the schools’ shops look more professional. Instructors have responded very favorably to the industry’s support which helps them better educate their students, but schools are always seeking guest speakers, shop tours, mentors, and advisory committee members as well. The Foundation encourages industry professionals to get involved with their local schools to get in front of future industry professionals. Getting students employed after graduation is another important effort the Foundation has undertaken with the industry’s support. CREF hosts physical and virtual career fairs where they offer interview workshops and resume advice to students, plus this provides a great opportunity to introduce industry employers to recent graduates who are well-trained on current model vehicles using advanced equipment and modern tools, ready to start in your shop! For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit CollisionEducationFoundation.org or contact Brandon Eckenrode, Director of Development, at 312-231-0258 or Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org.