The autobody program at ASC, part of the State
University of New York (SUNY) system, has attracted employers
to its doors for the past three decades. Not satisfied with the
program’s successful 30-year track record, however, ASC senior
instructor Richard Mitchell is thinking of the next 30 years.
“The cornerstone of our success has always
been ‘live’ work and the responsibilities that go along with it,”
he says. “We count on industry support to help keep us current
and prepare us for the next century.”
The school depends on an active industry advisory
group to monitor the program and suggest new directions. “Auto
body graduates from Alfred have so much opportunity for success,”
says adviser Curt VanPelt of VanPelt Collision in Wellsville,
N.Y. “Companies and dealerships from the Carolinas, Georgia
and Florida have returned again and again to find talent here.
They wouldn’t be back if they weren’t happy.”
Hitting the Books
The Alfred autobody program is one of many
at the college’s School of Vocational Technology campus in Wellsville,
N.Y. All of the programs provide a minimum of six “contact”
hours a day, five days per week, 15 weeks per semester. One-and-a-half
hours per day are devoted to a lecture period directly related
to the student’s trade, with the remaining four-and-a-half hours
focusing on “live” work in the labs.
Students receive certified training from Sherwin-Williams
Automotive Division and General Motors in color adjustment, basecoat/
clearcoat and three-stage paint systems. Senior students also
take a variety of field trips to prominent collision shops within
Homework assignments are also trade related.
Communication, math and writing skills are developed within the
courses, as opposed to being required separately.
“We feel that a well-rounded educational
experience benefits our graduates in the long run, and those who
recruit our technicians seem to agree,” says Thomas Jamison,
Automotive Trades Department chair.
Actual repairs performed by the students at
ASC range from rust repair to panel repair and replacement to
complete wreck rebuilds.
In addition to rust repair and paint basics,
the first year of the two-year program includes work in electrical/electronics,
brakes and suspension, alignment, reconditioning, heating/air
conditioning, welding and wrecker operation. The second year includes
frame theory and repair, major refinishing and repair, and wreck
“Our auto service, heavy equipment, truck
and diesel, and auto body repair programs are all based on extensive
hands-on experience with vehicles that have to be repaired correctly
before they’re released,” says Jamison. “Our students
realize they not only have to meet their instructors expectations,
but also those of the customer.”
The cars the students work on are brought
in by them, the faculty and the staff members. The school purchases
an average of 12 late-model wrecks each year, and the repaired
vehicles are then sold, creating a rotating fund to purchase vehicles
for the following class.
Is It a Lab or a Shop?
Extensive facilities and equipment support
a program that resembles a typical busy shop. Students make full
use of the autobody program’s 40,000 square feet of lab space
– which doesn’t include a new 12,000-square-foot welding lab that’s
used by other programs as well. The autobody lab features a new
Hunter alignment rack, which supplements three other centers;
two constantly used frame machines (and one on the way); as well
as separate rooms for sand blasting, priming and washing vehicles.
Extensive faculty and staff support is needed
to maintain efficient work flow in the lab, and a full-time autobody
parts manager is employed.
Both Mitchell and CCC computerized estimating
systems are used, along with a Paint Logic paint-information system.
A complete Sherwin-Williams mixing system provides the paint,
sprayed in either of the OMP-heated, downdraft paint booths. HVLP
paint guns from a variety of manufacturers and a Trisk short-wave
infrared curing system are also utilized. A Snap-on R-134A A/C
recycling/ charging system is one of the students last stops before
final detail work.
“The Alfred State program parallels the
direction that the collision industry is going, and the students
graduate with much more than entry-level skills,” says Tom
McGraw, a Sherwin-Williams Co. Automotive Division representative
who works closely with the school and helped set up a complete
on-site paint operation. “These graduates are in very high
demand by New York state and out-of-state employers.”
About the College
Some of the highlights of the Automotive Trades
Department at ASC:
- The heavy-equipment, truck and diesel program, a member of
the Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS), is one of only nine
- TechSmart schools nationally.
- The program is a testing site for ADS, ASE and ATRA (Automatic
Transmission Rebuilders Association), as well as NYS Department
of Motor Vehicles Inspection tests and ATTP certifications.
- The 16 faculty members combine for more than 300 years of
trade experience. Many have regional and national reputations
in their fields; some have international experience as consultants.
Faculty work in the trade during the summers and constantly update
their knowledge with extensive training during nonteaching periods.
- The programs place 98 percent of their graduates, who can
be found in all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
Mercedes Benz dealerships from five states regularly return to
ASC to fill personnel needs.
- Students in all programs average above ASE national standards
in certification exams.
- The Industrial Planning Council awarded Alfred State College’s
automotive service as the Best Post-Secondary Automotive Technician
Training Program in New York state for 1996-’97.
One of only 11 Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Master Certified
post-secondary programs in the nation, ASC isn’t satisfied simply
resting on its laurels and past awards.
“The success of our program, and any like it, rests partly
on the shoulders of the industry,” says Mitchell. “Declining
resources for vocational education means that all those in the
autobody business need to consider how they can help the new generation
“The technical complexity of today’s repairs almost requires
advanced schooling, and the industry needs to realize the schools
can’t do it on their own. We can best serve our students and their
employers by continuing to work closely with those in the industry.”
For more information on Alfred State College, call (800) 4-ALFRED
or contact Dick Mitchell at (607) 587-3117 or [email protected].