Investing in Future Repairers

Sept. 1, 2011
Scott Kruger, executive director of the Collision Repair Education Foundation, talks about the benefits of offering internships, and how shops can get involved.

There’s no question that skilled collision repair employees are in demand.

The industry is facing a shortage of skilled technicians, but shops can help ensure a bright future for collision repair through partnerships with school programs. Offering an internship program can help your shop get its work done, help the industry build its workforce, and provide valuable real-world experiences to future repairers.

“Providing internships is incredibly important,” says Scott Kruger, executive director of the Collision Repair Education Foundation. “Especially today as collision repair training has gotten much more expensive because of the equipment involved.”

Many schools can’t afford to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology in collision repair, so getting into shops is often the only way for students to see and use modern equipment, Kruger says. Those experiences can make the difference between entering the trade and choosing another path.

But before you call your local high school, keep in mind that only about 1,200 schools throughout the nation offer some form of collision repair course, and less than 400 of those offer a program that actually prepares students to enter the workforce, Kruger says. The Collision Repair Education Foundation is well connected to those schools and can help shops partner with them, he says. All it takes is a call to the foundation.

Kruger says shops considering internships should also consider the following:

• Internships should provide value to the student. Sure, an intern can help your shop get through its daily workload, but you have to remember the greater purpose of the internship.

“The quickest way to lose a kid is to hand them a broom and say, ‘Here you go,’ and have them clean for the next three weeks,” Kruger says. “You want the kids to learn [collision repair] skills.”

• Internships require payment or academic credit, depending on the school. Offering an internship is not simply a way to get free labor. Shops should also check with the school and their insurance agent regarding liability coverage and other insurance issues related to interns.

• Shops should research school programs before agreeing to offer an internship, to make sure the teachings are in-line with the experience the shop can provide.

• Consider joining a school advisory board. That way, you can use your experience to improve the school’s program, and be in a position to recruit students to intern, and maybe eventually work fulltime, at your shop.

Shops interested in partnering with a school can call the foundation at 888.722.3787 or email [email protected].

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