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Thursday, 26 July 2012 18:30

Texas’ Collision Repair Schools—No Lone Reason for Success

The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) is a Leesburg, Va.-based regulatory body whose sole purpose is to ensure quality auto body training and education. NATEF continuously evaluates courses and subjects being taught in collision repair schools.

In Texas, there are 11 NATEF-accredited programs, comprising seven high school and four post-secondary programs that serve students and industry in the Lone Star State, reports Trish Serratore, president of NATEF, Three of the secondary programs are at Trimble Tech, Pasadena and San Benito high schools. All use the I-CAR curriculum.
The Fort Worth Independent School District has its only Collision Repair Program at Trimble Tech High School, says its instructor, Roger Alfaro, ASE Master Certified in Collision Repair/Refinishing Technology and Estimating. Dr. Alma Charles directs all CTE programs at FWISD.

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Accredited by NATEF in Non-Structural Analysis and Damage Repair (Body Components) Structural Analysis and Damage Repair, Trimble Tech has had a body-repair program since 1956 and participates annually in SkillsUSA, Alfaro says.

Students begin in their freshman year, so a program graduate completes 721 hours of instruction including those first two components, 300 and 260 hours respectively, and 161 hours for Refinishing Technology, guest speakers, field trips and potential-job visits.

“I actually took the Auto Body class and graduated from Trimble Tech in 1983,” he says. He then attended Tarrant County College, earning an associate degree in Applied Science in Auto Body. After working in a shop for about 6.5 years, he was hired as the Collision Repair instructor in January 1991.

A 2011 graduate, Martin Urbina, was an intern at Frank Kent Cadillac in Fort Worth. “I graduated from high school and work to support my family,” he says. “I’m still going strong by also going to college to further my education. I believe those ethics were instilled in me by having majored in Body Shop.”

Outside of Houston, Pasadena High School uses the I-CAR training curriculum for a two-year course, articulated with nearby San Jacinto College South for five courses. In place since the 1960s, the program accepts about 20 juniors annually following intensive vetting, explains Chad Phillips, the program instructor, an ASE Master Collision/Refinishing technician.

“A six-week-long safety program is followed by education in automobile construction and instruction on correctly disassembling and reassembling a variety of cars. Next, students learn to weld using ICAR standards and train on vehicles provided through donations from AYES, auto manufactures and San Jacinto College.

This is followed by dent-repair practice on vehicles and donated panels from Toyota; then students prime and refinish their panels. “It’s a lot to complete in the first year along with the six ICAR modules, but we have to get them ready for potential internships,” Phillips says.

Pasadena High School hosts three meetings a year for administrators, instructors and local auto dealerships to get together and evaluate the program and its current needs. Throughout the year, students work on portfolios preparing to interview in April as well as complete 24 hours of job shadowing. At this time, too, dealer/collision shop managers visit the school to interview qualified students for possible internship placement.

Once placed, students will typically work a 40-hour week with a mentor during the summer between their junior and senior years. “When we return back to school, the intern, now a senior,  goes to school a half of a day and then to work,” he says, noting that Pasadena places 5-7 students in collision internships annually.
San Benito High School serves the San Benito community, adjacent to Mexico and separated by the Rio Grande River.

In existence since 1978 at San Benito High, the school’s Collision Repair and Refinishing program prepares students as if they were already at a body shop or at the community college, says Hector M. Rendon, director of Career and Technical Education Programs.

One teacher provides the instruction through three different classes for grades 10 through 12. Courses include Principles of Manufacturing (9th); Energy, Power & Transportation Systems (10th); Collision Repair and Refinishing (11th); Advanced Collision Repair and Refinishing (12th); and, for qualified students, a practicum in Transportation, Distribution and Logistics class (12th).

On completion of coursework, students can then test in two NA3SA/ASE areas for certification after completing the two-and-a-half year program: Painting and Refinishing and Nonstructural Analysis and Damage Repair.

The San Benito program has been NATEF/AYES certified since 2005.

“By participating in NATEF, we were able to restructure to define the necessary tasks needed by our local businesses to assist in providing qualified entry-level employees,” Rendon explains. Similarly, through the AYES program, students can participate in a 400-hour paid internship during the summer of their junior years.

When students complete their internships, they may work full-time or continue their education at the respective dealer manufacturer training centers or college. A tool scholarship valued at $3,200 is made available at minimal cost.

“The one thing I liked about the job placement is that it is very different from the classroom environment,” says student Roberto Rodriguez. “You are always busy and on your toes. It is about production and profits.”

Texas colleges, also using the I-CAR curriculum, have equally robust programs.

In operation since 1935, Kilgore College is in Kilgore, between Longview and Tyler in east Texas, two miles south of Interstate 20. The Automotive Program is a member of the Training Alliance with I-CAR.

“We are a small but effective operation, allowing direct personal contact with each student,” says Joel Laws, the program director and primary instructor. In the 10-year-old Auto Body Program, he sees 20-25 students annually flowing through the new 40 credit-hour one-year curriculum for certificate seekers and the 71-credit two-year curriculum for the Associate of Applied Science Degree.

The classes are approximately 6-7 hours a day, five days a week for the duration of the specific program. Courses in the certificate program include Vehicle Trim and Hardware in the first semester and Structural Analysis & Damage Repair, I, II and III, in the second.

For the two-year degree, students take courses such as Automotive Suspension and Steering Systems in the fall semester and Collision Repair Estimating and Collision Repair Shop Management in the spring.

James Burns, an owner of a local used car dealership, attended the program to maximize profit. “With the information I have learned through the program, I can now make the proper repairs, turn a better profit and put a better-looking vehicle on the lot,” he says.

Student Ramiro Aguilar began a career: “Starting with no knowledge or experience in the field, through the program I was able to complete my co-op time at a local body shop that I now work at full time!”

Automotive collision repair is taught at the North and South campuses of San Jacinto College in the Houston area. The Central campus teaches Automotive Mechanical repair.

The San Jacinto College Automotive Collision Repair Technology Program began in the mid 70s and was one of the first programs in the Houston area to teach I-CAR classes. The auto collision program has 186 students enrolled and places 75 percent of its graduates in jobs, says David Baisden, who started teaching at San Jacinto College as an adjunct instructor in 1978, and in 1981 became a full-time instructor.

All of the full-time auto collision instructors are I-CAR trained, members of the I-CAR Industry Training Alliance and certified through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

“Being I-CAR Industry Training Alliance members also allows our students to be eligible for I-CAR Gold Points, which can be used for further certification with I-CAR after completion of the auto-collision program,” Baisden says.

His associate Jake Stahl, teaches at the South campus, and Glen Kirkwood is the full-time instructor at the North Campus, with many adjunct instructors collegewide. Instructors also train in most major equipment and paint systems and take training courses to keep up with the latest industry standards, he says.

Several degree and certificate options are offered: an Associate of Applied Science degree in four semesters, earning 62 college credits; a Certificate of Technology in three semesters, 42 college credits; or an Occupational Certificate completed in as little as one semester. Night and weekend classes are also available.

“By incorporating industry professionals in curriculum planning, we ensure that our students have an advantage once they enter the job market after completion of the program,” he says, noting that they participate in activities such as the San Jac Auto Body Club, the Technical Honors Society and SkillsUSA.

“It’s always been my dream to be in the auto body industry, and now I’m excited to learn more so I can get a job doing something I love,” says Pedro Chacon, 19, an auto collision student who works at a local tire shop, takes a full load of courses and works at his family’s restaurant on his days off.

A former student, Leslie Eaton, 54, is a retired NASA associate engineer and enrolled in Baisden’s class in the early 90s after she discovered a gasket leak in her 1972 Toyota Corolla and wanted to save money on repairs and car maintenance by doing them herself.

“I still do maintenance and repairs on my cars, and now when I’m buying a used car, I can recognize if it’s had any prior damage, which gives me more bargaining room,” she says.

In Waco, the Auto Collision and Management program at Texas State Technical College began in August 1969. The program offers four achievements: Refinish Certificate, 41 credit hours; Auto Body Certificate, 40 credit hours; Refinish & Auto body Combination Certificate, 61 credit hours; and an Auto Collision & Management Associate Degree, 70 credit hours. Each certificate requires a year, and the Associates Degree is a two-year program.

The instructional staff includes seven instructors, all with Master status from ASE, one lab maintenance technician and one secretary. Facilities comprise three collision labs, two refinish labs and classroom space.

In the fall semester 2011, 163 majors were enrolled, says Archie Watley, program chairman.

Through the use of industry partnerships with major players, the program has kept equipment and training current. “The fact that our graduates have been prepared on vehicles with state-of-the-art design and electronics greatly assists them in moving smoothly and quickly into the workforce,” he says.

One result of this high level of training has been participation and success in SkillsUSA. In the mid 90s, Watley was assigned advisor to the local VICA organization (now SkillsUSA), and three of his students placed first, second and fourth in the state. That year, in June, at the finals in Kansas City, Mo., his first-place winner took first nationally.

This year, students Rebekah Shadowens and Brandon Wennin, traveled to Kansas City to compete in SkillsUSA, she in Collision Repair Technology, he in Automotive Refinishing Technology. “While neither placed in the top three areas, their display of skills and competitiveness prepared them mentally and physically for their entrance in this field of study,” Watley says. “Now, we begin searching for new talent.”

Note: The writer thanks Joe Thigpen and Ric Menard, AYES state managers for Texas. Employed by the Texas Auto Dealers Association, Thigpen manages the AYES schools in Texas except the AYES schools in the Houston area, managed by Menard, who is employed by the Houston Auto Dealers Association.


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