The day started out with a visit to LKQ in Akron. In addition to viewing an automotive recycling center, the students learned that LKQ is a paint and body equipment distributor as well as an aftermarket parts supplier.
Their next stop was Centerline CARSTAR in Strongsville. The students met with Paul Struhar Sr. and his son Paul Jr. and were given a tour of the 17,750-square-foot facility. Centerline recently went through a reorganization and expansion in order to increase production. The students were shown sunlight corrected lighting, epoxied floors, a central vacuum sanding system, ProSpot steel and aluminum repair systems, Matrix wand for blueprinting, vehicle mid-lifts and parts carts for vehicles.
In each location, participants also had the opportunity to learn about the PCE (Process Centered Environment) process.
Adam Rick, an instructor in automotive collision technology at Medina County Career Center, said the students enjoyed the visit to both businesses and came back with a better understanding of the industry. “For the juniors, it was the first time in a shop other than the lab and for the seniors who are already working in the industry, it opens their eyes to a more efficient way of doing business with state-of-the-art equipment and organization,” he said.
Over the years, he has found it to be very beneficial to bring students into a shop and have them work side-by-side with those who have 20 plus years of experience. “I feel that hands-on learning is necessary to reinforce the newly introduced learned skills,” explained Rick. “Bringing students into a shop changes their perspective in the areas of organization, speed and quality.”
During their tour, students had the opportunity to learn first-hand from technicians
To further support this goal, the tech school offers a 10-week summer internship program for junior students the summer prior to their senior year. Currently, there are 14 juniors and 16 seniors who are part of the program.
“Halfway through their senior year, I try to place the students in the same shops that they interned in the past summer,” said Rick. If it seems like a good fit, the students are usually kept on as full-time employees after they graduate.
“I want the shop to be comfortable with their decision because of the time and money they will spend to mold an intern into a productive, long-term employee,” he added.
This was the first time LKQ PBE Department has conducted a tour of its facility with local schools. Jason Emch, PBE operations & sales manager at LKQ, said many of their current customers are looking to recruit younger body and paint techs in their shops. This prompted LKQ to reach out to Medina County Career Center to gain more knowledge on the training received by current students as well as the products they use.
“The highlights for me were seeing these young students have their eyes open to the potential of having a successful career in an industry with huge demand that will thrive for many years to come,” said Emch. “The questions, comments and the amount of thanks that came after demonstrated the success of the event.”
He said walking into a body shop and experiencing the work and pace can’t be taught from a textbook. “The students get the benefit of not only seeing it first-hand, but also speaking with body techs and painters,” said Emch. “It was rewarding to be part of giving them the opportunity and time with individuals who have not only walked in their shoes going through the motions of schooling, but have the expertise to help guide them as the next generation in this industry.”
Kerry Ott from Centerline CARSTAR said the body shop has hosted similar events in the past with career centers in the area, including Cuyahoga Valley Career Center and Parma City Schools Vocational Center. She said vocational schools don’t always have the tools and equipment to teach all of the necessary skills to enter into the workforce with some type of on-the-job experience.
“We encourage visits to our shop to give students a real-life picture of how a body shop looks and operates,” said Ott. “The benefit is the ability of the students to experience a body shop in operation and how the flow of a shop works.”
Established 24 years ago, Centerline CARSTAR has 25 full-time employees and one apprentice. Three of the team members began as apprentices while in vocational school and are now full-time employees. Seven gradated from local vocational schools.
“We enjoy hosting vocational school events as we feel that we can spark students’ interest in our industry and give them real-world experience,” she said. “Owners and managers can help students and parents understand that the trade is a viable and respectable way to earn a living and build a career.”