The community college collision repair program has been in existence for more than 30 years at Palomar College, located in San Diego county, and over the years the program has seen a few changes, including being a part of ROP for several years. Collision repair is again part of the regular community college two-year curriculum and offers four classes, two each in Repair 1 and Repair 2. All four classes are taught by the program’s single teacher, David Wright, who has been an auto body professor at Palomar for 12 years. Currently, the program has space for about 26 students in its new spacious classroom and lab.
The beautiful new ITC building was constructed just a year ago and Wright is patiently waiting for his new refinishing area to be completed. In the meantime, they use a temporary, makeshift paint booth. The new paint booth and refinishing area is scheduled to be finished next fall, and Wright plans to immediately begin a level 1 refinishing class and add a level 2 class when more students are trained. While construction is underway, the refinishing part of the program remains in hiatus.
The recent renovation of the new trades building has brought life back to the collision repair program. Years ago, it had become “generic and run down under ROP,” Wright said. “My goal is to individualize classes and get the program up to standards,” he said. Another big goal is to the get the program NATEF certified, which he hopes to do in about four years. On his ‘wish list’ for items he would like to provide his students are lap top computers and a virtual reality spray simulator so students can practice spraying.
Wright’s love of cars began a long time ago when as a kid he visited his uncle in Las Vegas who owned a pin striping business. The hot rods sparked his interest and so he took an auto body class at Santana High School in Santee, CA.
One of Wright’s students, Nik Gerdel, 18, is in his fourth semester in Palomar College’s collision repair program. He took the first class with his dad, who owns a shop across the street from the college.
“Dave is an awesome instructor and always happy to help,” Gerdel said.
Gerdel’s interest in collision repair is personal. His dream was to own a restored Datsun 240Z. He had wanted once since he was 13. He bought one but soon realized he had been “swindled.” He bought another Datsun 240Z so he could use parts from the first car to restore the second. Gerdel’s future plans include transferring to Cal Poly, Pomona to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.