By John Shoemaker
Contrary to the beliefs of many, there are technicians available in most markets. While technicians are not standing at your door every day looking for a job, they are available. The next generation of automotive technicians can be found at vocational technical schools, community colleges and trade schools.
I have heard all of the pros and cons about the quality of technicians coming out of the various schools and while some are founded most are misleading. All of the concerns you have with these schools can be fixed with your involvement. If your local facility does not have an advisory council, start one.
The schools are teaching the students what the school knows but not necessarily what the industry needs. Advisory councils provide input to the schools on curriculum requirements; their goal is to educate a student on what they must know to become employable.
Some of the other concerns circulating are created by misconceptions and expectations of what students should be able to do when they graduate. Again, your involvement with the school to develop a mutual understanding of what level of knowledge the student will have at graduation would be welcome. Remember, the schools’ intentions are to train the student to become a valuable addition to our industry.
Most trade schools and all high school level vocational schools are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Their mission is to improve the quality of automotive technician training programs nationwide. NATEF examines the structure, resources and quality of training programs and evaluates them against standards established by the industry. These standards reflect the skills that students must master to be successful in the industry.
NATEF also works with students to increase career awareness opportunities in the automotive repair industry. You can assist with validating the schools in your area by assisting with the NATEF audit. The audit is a tool to ensure the school has the equipment, curriculum and qualified instructors needed to succeed.
Another entity that is very involved in developing technicians for the collision repair industry is the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF). Their mission is to support collision repair educational programs, schools and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. They support schools through grants that provide collision programs with the new tools, equipment and supplies needed to enhance the educational experience, giving students the necessary skills and understanding of new technology.
CREF is able to accomplish this through contributions from the entire collision industry. Donors include national corporations and local businesses; from major insurance carriers to collision repair businesses, and everyone in between, that serve the collision repair industry, people like you.