Hoffman Estates, Ill. (July 10, 2023) –
The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) strives to support collision repair educational programs, schools and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities, but those efforts would not be possible – let alone successful – without the support of volunteers around the country who play a pivotal role in the Foundation’s ability to carry out its mission.
One of those amazing volunteers is Pam Watson (Albert Kemperle, LLC) who was instrumental in delivering 150 quarter panels to 17 schools in the Florida area earlier this year. Watson has been involved with CREF since 2018 in an effort to “help schools in our community find the necessary tools for student success.”
As a member of her local I-CAR Committee, Watson’s involvement ranges from fundraising efforts and industry events with collision repair peers and students to sitting on school advisory committees, assisting local instructors with CREF’s grant application, hosting shop tours and facilitating panel donations. Through those efforts, she’s happy to report several improvements in her local collision schools: “Students have access to the tools needed to enhance their programs while they’re in school, and they also know they have the industry’s support once they graduate.”
Promoting collision education programs and CREF is important to Watson because it provides a way to “help students find careers with skilled trades and know they don’t have to go to college to be successful while simultaneously helping to fill the technician shortage problem that the collision repair industry is currently facing.”
While she believes that “many schools across the country are getting a lot of support from I-CAR volunteers and CREF to improve their programs,” Watson also fears that “many school instructors don’t reach out for help as often as they should.” She would also love to see more collision professionals get involved with local schools by joining advisory committees and attending their meetings, calling them monthly to check in, presenting to the students to let them know about collision career opportunities and organizing or attending career fairs. She would also “love to see CREF interview Mike Rowe on skilled trades specifically regarding careers in collision repair.”
On the opposite side of the country in California, Gene Lopez (Seidner’s Collision Centers) has been involved with CREF since 1998 because of his “love for learning and my ability to share this passion with others.” Over the years, he has been engaged in advisory committees and has actively hired students.
“I began investing time with high schools and community colleges,” he recalls his early introduction to philanthropy within the Foundation. “At that time, there were over 18 high schools and five community colleges in our market area teaching collision repair; today, there are only five high schools (three are on the brink of shuttering the collision program while maintaining automotive technology), and only three of the five community colleges have maintained collision repair education/curriculum.”
Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges that schools encounter is the increasing difficulty of becoming ASE-credentialed. “It is too difficult to receive the credential because of the 389 task requirements and 1100 hours of training required to be an ASE credentialed school at the secondary or post-secondary level,” he laments. “The change that is needed is for ASE to create a credential that will allow a school to graduate a student with skills that will allow them to enter into our industry as an entry-level technician.”
He also believes that educators need to “teach what collision center owners and managers have expected from an entry-level technician since the 1996 Snap-Shot of the Collision Industry, which is that an entry-level technician can perform these top five skill sets with little or no supervision: 1) remove and replace a bolted-on part, 2) fix a small dent, 3) prep for paint, 4) final detailing and 5) plastic repair. If educators would teach students to attain and accomplish those five skill sets and have the ability to perform them with little or no supervision, the collision industry would begin to reduce the talent shortage,” Lopez insists.
Seidner’s Collision Centers is working to alleviate the talent shortage through a summer internship program that will run for three weeks and includes 36 hours of hands-on training. “These interns have agreed to share their experience with their peers when they return to school in the fall of 2023 when these eleventh graders will take on 55 ASE task lists and 360 hours of classroom and lab time until they graduate as seniors in the spring of 2025.”
It’s also vital for industry professionals to get involved with their local schools in order to “create an outcome that will allow you to see results by volunteering, taking action now and continuing to take action at a local high school or community college,” Lopez urges. “Let the local teacher know that you would like to participate in grooming and hiring entry-level technicians and stick to it because it is going to take a while…but it’s definitely worth the effort! The greatest importance is to let students, both secondary and post-secondary, know they are valued. And when we participate with them at high school or college, we reinforce what their teachers have been teaching. Seeing the faces of the students while they are learning is a very gratifying experience. I feel like I have made a personal impact in their lives. We have some collision center managers who began as entry-level technicians and are now operating multi-million-dollar collision centers.
Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs can Contact Us to learn about the many ways to get involved. Monetary donations can be made online.
The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at: www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org.
If you would like more information about this topic or any of CREF’s initiatives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.