After a yearlong hiatus, Amarillo College’s auto collision program will resume in the fall with a leader and a revamped curriculum. Courses in the two-semester program will cover painting, welding and general auto body repair, said Eddie Casias, who will head the program.
“I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and pass it on to new students, and hopefully produce enough help to get employees in shops,” Casias said.
The body shop industry has a high demand for qualified workers, he said.
“The average age of a person working in collision is in the mid-40s, and there are not a lot of new people entering the business to take the place of people retiring or getting out of it,” said Brian Jacob, AC coordinator of automotive, collision and diesel.
Casias, who began working on cars as a freshman in Palo Duro High School’s mechanics program, said high schools have gotten away from teaching the trades.
“I think they need to open back up trade schools, because college is not for everyone, and some schools have pushed college. So the market is flooded, and it leaves the trade side empty,” he said.
Forest Holt, owner of Southwest Body Shop and a member of the auto collision program advisory board, echoed concerns about the push for students to pursue four-year college degrees rather than careers in trades such as plumbing and welding.
“Working with your hands has a special satisfaction to it,” Holt said. “A lot of people miss out on that, and we miss out on bright kids who would make great service-type folks.”
AC’s auto collision program had been in place for about 25 years, but it was put on hold for the last year to move into and equip a different building on the East campus, Jacob said.
“One of the things we’re working on is having a comprehensive program,” he said. “The collision program will teach every skill needed in all entry-level jobs in every body shop in town.”
Five students are enrolled in the program. AC also plans to offer evening continuing education auto collision classes in the spring, Jacob said.