“I’ve never had this many jobs available for students. It’s hard to fill all of the requests. Technicians are getting older and retiring and a lot of younger guys aren’t there to fill the holes,” said Grace, Wallace State’s Collision Repair Department Head. “Technology is changing and the way we are doing things is changing. That keeps it from being a dead end street. The need for strong technicians is getting greater and greater. The job field is very broad, and there are good wages to be made out there.”
Wallace State’s Collision Repair program consists of four semesters and is designed to train students to perform computerized estimates of repairs, repair and replace damaged automobile parts using computerized measuring, frame repair and glass replacement to working with fiberglass and plastics and apply paints, waterborne, solvent and clear coat finishes.
Grace, who is in his 16th year with the Wallace State Collision Repair program, encourages all students in the program to become certified through I-Car, the National Automotive Technical Education Foundation (NATEF) and Automotive Service Excellence (A.S.E.) standards.
New technological advances have affected many industries, and the collision repair world is no exception.
“Technology is growing so fast. It’s hard for people to keep up, but we are embracing it. We have a lot of technicians repairing cars today who are not repairing them correctly. They are repairing them like they did in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Our metals have changed. Collision management has changed. The design of a car has changed. A lot of things are changing to make cars safer, and people need to be educated on those things in order to protect the occupants inside of a car,” Grace said. “For instance, a technician today has to be able to read all electrical components of a car. If you change a mirror or door handle, you have to tell the car that you put the new part on it. If not, that sets your service engine light on.”
According to I-Car, the annual average salary for a technician in 2013 was $52,000. In addition, collision repair painters were making as high as $200,000 annually and body technicians were making as high as $100,000 annually. Certain shops were paying as much as $52 an hour for body repair and painting, $62 an hour for frame repair and measuring and $72 an hour for mechanical and electrical repairs.
Car Max, Joe Hudson’s Collision Center, Limbaugh Toyota, Earl’s Body Shop, Fontaine Trailer Company, Howard Bentley Buick GMC and Express Oil Change Tire Engineers are among the companies who have recently contacted Grace about filling potential job openings with Wallace State students.
Grace has recently added three short-term certificate opportunities for students. The short term certificates are refinishing (painting), structural (framing and alignment) and unstructural (body filler, working with metal parts). Grace is also planning to add an aluminum station to the shop.
Wallace State’s summer registration for collision repair and all other classes is currently underway. Registration continues through May 26.For more information about the collision repair department, contact Grace at 256.352.8152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu