The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) announced that the Houston I-CAR Committee has “adopted” Kingwood Park High School to support students in its collision program.
Getting involved with local collision repair training programs can seem daunting, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Since the Houston I-CAR Committee adopted Kingwood Park, the positive impacts have been apparent.
“We’re seeing an influx of students,” said Chris Ryland, who has been involved with the Houston I-CAR Committee since 2014 and has served as a committee chair since 2017. “The more we’ve gotten involved with helping, the more notoriety the school gets, leading to increased interest in their collision program. We’re able to provide them with materials that can be used to educate students, and we’re also working on a way to support Kingwood Park even further by having collision professionals visit the school as guest lecturers.”
A Growing Relationship
Kingwood Park High School has received support from CREF every year since 2015, and in 2017, program instructor Jeff Wilson joined the Houston I-CAR Committee, where that relationship was fostered and continues to grow.
“Being a part of the Houston I-CAR committee has also allowed me to better prepare my lessons for the students enrolled in the program,” said Wilson.
The relationship also benefits the collision program from a financial perspective. “The support we receive from the Houston I-CAR Committee and CREF filled that budgetary gap with consumables that generally would have eaten up my budget,” Wilson said. “Both institutions have been a main contributor to the success of my students who complete the course.”
Most recently, the Houston I-CAR Committee donated over $15,000 worth of materials to the school during an open house event.
“We brought in the donations so they could see everything, and then we gave a presentation,” said Ryland. “Once the floor opened up, we were tied up with different parents and students all night long. It was interesting, and a lot of parents questioned whether their kids were on the right path and whether they need to attend trade school after graduation. Hopefully, they will all enter our industry in the near future.
“As great as it felt to donate the materials, the best part was actually talking with the students and their parents because it gave us an opportunity to explain that this is a great trade for their children. The only way to attract new blood into this industry is by talking with parents and students to communicate how collision repair is changing and growing — not declining — and make sure they’re aware of the many career paths they can take if they want a lucrative career. We have to engage them at a young age before they accrue a bunch of unnecessary college debt.”
Added Wilson, “Students were so excited that they couldn’t wait to dig through everything and start using the materials,. Having new toys always piques our students’ interest, and we are so grateful to the Houston I-CAR Committee, UTI, SH Nissan, Leading Edge Collision, 3M, Axalta and CREF for donating time, encouragement, advice and over $15,000 worth of supplies to KPHS.”
Students and Parents
Wilson agrees that industry’s engagement with students and parents is a vital component to successfully promoting collision repair careers. “Hearing positive feedback from actual industry professionals who spend every day in the field opened the eyes of many parents. Having a relationship with local shops/industry professionals helps with that ‘I don’t know’ factor which many students and parents have when entering this industry. With these partners, I have real-world facts being filtered to the students and their parents, which leads them to a better understanding as to what all is involved in the industry.”
“The ONLY way to get new techs into this industry is by getting young people involved, and we can only do that if we talk to students and their parents,” Ryland said. “Parents want their kids to do better than they did, but many of them don’t understand that working with hands as a skilled technician can lead to a great career path for their children. College isn’t for everyone, and there’s no reason for students who are mechanically inclined to incur student debt; instead, they should train to enter this industry where they could be earning $70,000 a year by the time their peers graduate from college. But the only way they’ll realize that is if the industry gets involved with the schools and informs them of those opportunities because no one else is going to tell them that.”
Ryland also encourages every shop to hire and invest in new trainees. “The technician pool is shrinking every day, and the only way to fill positions is to hire and train new people. If a shop isn’t bringing new trainees in, not only are they behind the eight ball, they’re also missing the boat completely. Shops can’t afford NOT to have a trainee on their payroll if they want to move forward and be properly staffed in the future. More techs are retiring than are coming to work, so if you’re not training, you’re in trouble.”
Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting CREF’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, managing director, at (312) 231-0258 or [email protected]. Monetary donations can be made online.