Educational Opportunities for Auto Body Technicians
Scott Kruger has been involved in the automotive industry for nearly his entire life. As a child, his parents owned a gas and service station and later a repair shop, so Kruger grew up surrounded by tow trucks, tools and car lifts. He also had his own go-kart, which he loved to drive around southern Minnesota dirt tracks where his dad was a crew chief for a late-model team. As he grew older, however, he realized his 6’4” frame prevented him from pursuing a professional racing career, so Kruger decided to explore other opportunities. He received a law degree from the University of Iowa and after working in fundraising for over a decade Kruger revisited his love for the automotive industry by accepting the position of director of the I-CAR Education Foundation.
How will your past experience help you in your new position?
The Education Foundation has worked with several industry partners and I-CAR committees in the past to raise funds in support of collision schools while the primary focus was to build an educational system to support the industry.
Today, we have moved toward building the financial resources to support collision schools through scholarships and grants. This is well in line with what I have done in the past; I have always worked to secure the resources to make a program better. My goal for the Education Foundation moving forward will be to maximize our relationships with, and the financial investments of, our industry partners to deliver the greatest benefit to collision education programs, instructors and students.
One of your primary goals is to enrich opportunities for students in collision repair. What steps will you take to make this happen?
I would say this is our only goal. The scholarships and grants we award will certainly benefit the industry as a whole as well as local shops and schools, but everything we do must benefit to some degree a student in collision education.
Our immediate focus will be on the Collision Repair Education Campaign. This campaign will focus on four areas of support: scholarships for students in collision education programs, grants to help schools purchase the I-CAR Live Curriculum, grants for instructors to receive continuing education in teaching collision repair, and grants for students in support of their education. We also want to serve as a clearinghouse for vehicles, tools and equipment, consumables, and other gifts-in-kind that collision repair schools can certainly use. We have a strong network of collision repair instructors that allows us to best match a donation with a school in need.
What are your priorities for continuing education for professionals already in the field?
While we share a common name and goals for the collision repair industry, I-CAR International and the I-CAR Education Foundation will affect collision professionals at differing points in their careers. I-CAR International has a strong history of providing continuing education for professionals already in the field. The I-CAR Education Foundation will focus its efforts on the path to the collision profession; recruiting future professionals and enhancing their educational opportunities through career and technical schools and colleges. The I-CAR brand as a whole is committed to the collision professional. The Education Foundation will help students get the training to get that first collision repair job after which I-CAR International will provide the training for professionals throughout their careers.
How can a shop owner attract new, bright talent in an industry striving to hold on to good technicians?
With the souring economy, we know things will need to tighten up at all levels of the collision industry. However, when the economy trends downward, education and job training program enrollment trend upward. I expect collision education programs will see an increase in their student numbers, which in turn will increase the financial need of these schools for scholarships and grants. In sum, there will be an excellent pool of new talent entering the collision industry soon, and hopefully by then the economy will have turned around and those jobs will again be available.