So when her high school counselor at Cleveland Hill exposed her to Erie 1 BOCES' Collision Repair program, she enrolled without hesitation. In addition to her keen instincts, her timing was impeccable. Around the time Abigale was stepping into her first paint booth, behind the scenes, six businesses were forming an unprecedented alliance to initiate a paid high school pre-apprenticeship.
“Western New York dealerships and independent collision shops need more qualified collision repair technicians,” said Robert Verso, Abigale’s collision repair instructor at Erie 1 BOCES Harkness Career & Technical Center. “Abigale is one of eight teens who are the first students to participate in this paid summer experience before entering 12th grade.”
Abigale was assigned to Collision Masters on Pearl Street in Buffalo. Collision Masters joined Erie 1 BOCES, Carubba Collision, Gabe’s Collision, Joe Basil Chevrolet and West Herr in the pre-apprenticeship consortium. All five collision businesses have employed students this summer.
“They are teaching me new things and helping me know what I am doing well and what I can improve on,” said Abigale about her experience. “I like it a lot here... my friends are proud of me.”
Frank Todaro, Erie 1 BOCES alumnus and owner of Collision Masters, called a meeting with his staff to ensure Abigale would have a smooth transition in the shop. “I didn’t need to; everyone was on board and she fits right in with the team,” said Todaro. “Within the last four weeks, she has rotated through different areas to get a feel for various aspects of the business. From detailing cars and paint preparation to disassembling vehicles – I think she’s found her niche.”
While the paycheck is an incentive for some, for Abigale, it is a bonus. “I would do it regardless... after high school, I want to work at a collision shop during the day and attend business college at night. I want to own a business someday,” said Abigale.
When asked what she would tell other young females considering a profession in a male-dominated field like automotive, she responded, “It is okay to be a girl and like cars. If you like it - go for it. Be the best at it that you can.”
The businesses involved are all members of I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, which sets industry standards.
In addition to paid experience, upon graduation from high school, Erie 1 BOCES collision repair students will be guaranteed a job interview for applicable openings at various consortium locations. If hired, graduates will be provided further apprenticeship opportunities and entry level training support. Erie 1 BOCES is a part of public education structure, serving 19 school districts in Erie County. Students and parents interested in learning more about the collision repair pre-apprenticeship consortium should speak with their high school counselor or visit www.e1b.org.