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CREF, partners award $500K in grants to auto body vo-tech schools; hear from Ill. $25K winner

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The Collision Repair Education Foundation on Friday announced it, insurers, I-CAR, MSOs, OEMs and others bestowed more than $500,000 in Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grants this year.

The money will support the next generation of repairers at 173 schools in 37 states, who together count more than 6,700 students in their collision programs, according to CREF. The organization classifies schools into three tiers of student industry readiness, and the Makeover grants are intended to help the lower two tiers advance and the top tier “to further expand their program’s capabilities,” CREF wrote in a news release.

“Collision repair training programs are facing tremendous budgetary pressure. It is difficult for many to maintain their program at current capabilities, no less invest in increasing their abilities to satisfy the industry’s current and future workforce needs,” CREF operations/administration director Melissa Marscin said in a statement. “The Makeover grant program is designed to help collision schools get the much needed tools, equipment and supplies they couldn’t get otherwise and increase their capabilities. For the third year in a row, every school that applied received some level of support through both grants and in-kind donations.”

The largest single amounts awarded to a single school came in at $25,000. CREF gave $25,000 each to Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, Texas, and the Thornton Fractional School District Center for Academics and Technology in Calumet City, Ill.; and Chicago-based Kennedy King College won the $25,000 Insurance Auto Auction Award. See the full list of winners below.

Thornton Fractional

Thornton Fractional Center for Academics and Technology collision repair instructor and career and technical education division leader Jorge Navarrete said Tuesday the school would use the money for a new downdraft paint booth.

He said the program had been awarded things like materials in the past, but not an actual grant.

The school’s old booth had been an early 1990s Spraybake, a brand no longer manufactured, and it’s time to “put it to rest,” according to Navarrete.

“It’s hard to find parts,” Navarrete said, and the program finds itself constantly pouring money into the aging equipment. When the weather gets too cold, the heat exchange won’t heat up, putting the booth out of commission until the temperature rises, he said. (And don’t forget, the school is based in Illinois.)

Navarrete said the grant allowed him to persuade school officials to put up the remainder of the cost for a new booth rather than just buy a new exchanger. The new booth also would expose students to current shop technology, he said.

The program is taking bids for the new booth now and hopes to have it installed during Christmas break given the lengthy installation time. At worst, it would have the booth this summer, Navarrete said.

The college’s two-year, two-hour program teaches students a range of skills, including estimating, basic welding and body work, according to Navarrete. It has won the state level SkillsUSA in refinishing and produces a “World of Wheels” car annually. It also performs repairs for actual customers.

Other lessons

Our interview with Navarrete also offered perspective into one trade school and its students, information which might be of interest to the industry — particularly shops looking to hire.

Future plans: Navarrete said he has had many students go on to two-year technical schools and some going right into the collision industry after graduating Thornton Fractional’s high school-level program. Others will work in collision repair for a few years to pay for a four-year college — but then “kind of move out,” Navarrete said. He said he had many students move up to roles like head painter, estimator and manager, but few making a career out of the shop floor.

Navarrete said he even warns students that while they might make more money at first than with a bachelor’s degree, the industry might cast them aside in favor of someone younger. They should still pursue a bachelor’s degree as a backup plan, he advises.

A story from Navarrete’s own career reinforced that sentiment. He once served under a head painter who couldn’t paint the vehicles the boss brought over at 5 p.m. because of issues like family commitments. The young Navarrete would stay behind to do the work, and ultimately the boss dropped the head painter of 26 years in favor of Navarrete — which Navarrete called a “pretty crappy thing to do.” Navarrete resolved to get a backup degree after witnessing this.

Disconnects: One issue for students has been a shift from commission-based paychecks to hourly rates at many regional shops; his students prefer commission plans, Navarrete said. A $14/hour head painter job was not attractive, and he said he tried to get his students work at larger shops able to offer benefits.

Navarrete said he tries to place students at smaller shops to begin their careers so they can afford tools, but eventually have them move up to larger shops. He said there appeared to be a “disconnect” between the equipment present at the two tiers, which can discourage students at the smaller facilities.

Work ethics: Navarrete said he is having an issue with students desiring instant gratification. Everyone wants to to paint the school’s annual “World of Wheels” restoration vehicle, but no one wishes to put in the hours on less glamorous work like its rust repair or bodywork, he said.

Students might weld a part on the show car with insufficient precision, and Navarrete will demand they cut it off and do it again, which he called “part of learning.” He said he tries to instill that an employer wouldn’t pay for a redo if a tech did it wrong on a customer vehicle, and he attributed the program’s SkillsUSA success to demanding this elevated standard.

Real-world skills: As noted above, Thornton Fraction works on actual customer vehicles, and “I try to run it like a real shop,” Navarrete said.

Cars have a delivery date, and students might have to stay after school to get it done, he said. Though Navarrete approves their work, his classes estimate the vehicles in CCC One, and “they’re kind of in charge of the job.” The students are also responsible for communicating any additional damage to the customer (Navarrete is CC’d on communications, however) to teach professionalism.

He said students are often shy and “they want me to talk for them.” (He noted they’re more used to text messaging than talking.) However, he insists they communicate with the customer to teach the people skills needed in the workforce, regardless of whether the students stick with collision repair.

Full list of CREF winners

Here is CREF’s list of the $500,000 in awards, with some edits and reshuffling by Repairer Driven News. See if your alma mater or local school made the cut:

I-CAR Committee Awards

Atlanta I-CAR Committee

Athens Tech College: $5,000 (Athens, GA)

Chattahoochee Technical College: $15,000 (Jasper, GA)

Maxwell High School of Technology: $10,000 (Lawrenceville, GA)

North Georgia Technical College: $7,500 (Clarkesville, GA)

Broward I-CAR Committee

Sheridan Technical College: $5,000 (Hollywood, FL)

Charlotte I-CAR Committee

Central Piedmont Community College: $12,000 (Charlotte, NC)

Greater Philadelphia I-CAR Committee

Eastern Center for Arts and Technology: $2,500 (Willow Grove, PA)

Northern Virginia I-CAR Committee

Chantilly HS STEM Academy: $5,000 (Chantilly, VA)

C.S. Monroe Technology Center: $5,000 (Leesburg, VA)

Dowell J Howard Center: $5,000 (Winchester, VA)

Fauquier High School: $5,000 (Warrenton, VA)

Phoenix I-CAR Committee

East Valley Institute of Technology: $5,000 (Mesa, AZ)

Gateway Community College: $5,000 (Phoenix, AZ)

West-MEC: $5,000 (Phoenix, AZ)

Raleigh I-CAR Committee

Westover High School: $12,000 (Fayetteville, NC)

St. Louis I-CAR Committee

Lake Career & Technical Center: $4,500 (Camdenton, MO)

Lewis and Clark Career Center: $4,500 (Saint Charles, MO)

Nichols Career Center: $4,500 (Jefferson City, MO)

North Technical High School: $4,500 (Florissant, MO)

Ranken Technical College: $4,500 (St. Louis, MO)

Rolla Technical Institute: $4,500 (Rolla, MO)

South Technical High School: $4,500 (Sunset Hills, MO)

Knoxville, Tenn., I-CAR Committee

Greene Technology Center: $5,000 (Greenville, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology: $5,000 (Morristown, TN)

Nashville, Tenn., I-CAR Committee

Northwest High School: $7,500 (Clarksville, TN)

Franklin County High School: $2,000 (Winchester, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology: $2,000 (Livingston, TN)

Collision repairer grants

Caliber Collision School Grants

Hudson Valley Community College: $3,000 (Troy, NY)

Laramie County Community College: $3,000 (Cheyenne, WY)

Lorenzo Walker Technical College: $3,000 (Naples, FL)

Morgan Community College: $3,000 (Ft. Morgan, CO)

Tidewater Community College: $3,000 (Chesapeake, VA)

Service King Grants

Eden Area ROP: $3,000 (Hayward, CA)

Prosser Career Education Center: $3,000 (New Albany, IN)

Rosedale Technical College: $3,000 (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stanly Community College: $3,000 (Albemarle, NC)

Trumbull Career and Technical Center: $3,000 (Warren, OH)

Thomas Coleman Memorial Grant

El Camino College; $10,000 (Torrance, CA)

Western Michigan Bodyshop Association Grant

Kent Career Technical Center: $2,000 (Grant Rapids, MI)

Other company awards

AkzoNobel Matching Grant

Ivy Tech Community College: $5,200 (Fort Wayne, IN)

CCC Classroom Enhancement Grant

Judson High School: $11,000 (Converse, TX)

Chrysler School Grant

Regional Career Technical Center: $5,000 (Saline, MI)

Hertz Grants

Eastside Technical Center: $3,000  (Lexington, KY)

GST BOCES Coopers Education Center: $3,000  (Painted Post, NY)

Mid-Coast School of Technology: $3,000  (Rockland, ME)

Randolph Technical Center: $3,000  (Elkins, WV)

Tazewell County Career and Technical Center: $3,000  (Tazewell, VA)

GEICO Grants

Cuesta College: $5,000 (San Luis Obispo, CA)

Gaithersburg High School: $5,000 (Gaithersburg, MD)

Miami Northwestern Sr High: $5,000 (Miami, FL)

Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College: $5,000 (Miami Lakes, FL)

Morrisville State College: $5,000 (Morrisville, NY)

St. Philip’s College: $5,000 (San Antonio, TX)

Honda Grants

Fayetteville Technical Community College: $4,000 (Fayetteville, NC)

Greenville Technical College: $4,000 (Greenville, SC)

Ranken Technical College: $4,000 (St. Louis, MO)

Insurance Auto Auction Award

Kennedy King College: $25,000 (Chicago, IL )

Liberty Mutual Insurance Grants

Assabet Valley Regional Technical H.S.: $5,000 (Marlboro, MA)

Bay Path: $5,000 (Charlton, MA)

Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School: $5,000 (Littleton, MA)

Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School: $5,000  (South Easton, MA)

Nationwide Insurance Grants

Ft. Hayes Career Center: $5,000 (Columbus, OH)

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology: $5,000 (Lancaster, PA)

Progressive Laptop Grants

Ivy Tech Community College (Fort Wayne, IN): 15 laptops

Texas State Technical College (Harlingen, TX): 10 laptops

Collision Repair Education Foundation

$25,000 Collision Repair Education Foundation Awards

Center for Academics & Technology (Calumet City, IL)

Texas Southmost College (Brownsville, TX)

$10,000 Collision Repair Education Foundation Award

Warren Tech (Lakewood, CO)

$1,000 Ultimate Collision Education Makeover Grants


Earnest Pruett Center of Technology (Hollywood, AL)

Etowah County Career Technical Center (Atalla, AL)


University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (North Little Rock, AR)


Collision Career Institute (Yorba Linda, CA)

Dos Palos High School (Dos Palo, CA)


Aims Community College (Windsor, CO)


Hodgson Vo-Tech (Newark, DE)


Hillsborough Community College (Tampa, FL)

Lake Technical College (Eustis, FL)

Manatee Technical College (Bradenton, FL)

Seminole High School (Sanford, FL)

SouthTech Academy (Boynton Beach, FL)


College of Southern Idaho (Twin Falls, ID)

Dennis Technical Education Center (Boise, ID)

Kootenai Technical Education Campus (Rathdrum, ID)

Lewis-Clark State College (Lewiston, ID)

North Idaho College (Coeur d’Alene, ID)


Highland Community College (Freeport, IL

Marengo Comm HS Dist 1554 (Marengo, IL)


Area30 Career Center (Greencastle, IN)

Hinds Career Center (Elwood, IN)


Des Community College (Ankeny, IA) Moines Area

Hawkeye Community College (Waterloo, IA)


Butler Community College (El Dorado, KS)

Kansas City Kansas Community College (Kansas City, KS)

Washburn University Institute of Technology (Topeka, KS)


Big Sandy Community and Technical College (Prestonsburg, KY)


Oxford Hills Technical School (Norway, ME)


North Point High School for Science Technology and Industry (Waldorf, MD)


Essex Technical High School (Hathorne, MA)

Greater Lawrence Technical High School (Andover, MA)

Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School (Palmer, MA)


Hennepin Technical College    (Brooklyn Park, MN)

Minnesota State College Southeast (Winona, MN)

Ridgewater College (Willmar, MN)

South Central College (North Mankato, MN)


Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center (Cape Girardeau, MO)

Franklin Technology Center (Joplin, MO)

Lex La-Ray Technical Center (Lexington, MO)

Perryville Area Career & Technology Center (Perryville, MO)


Montana State University Billings City College (Billings, MT)


Metropolitan Community College (Omaha, NE)

Southeast Community College (Milford, NE)

New Jersey

Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Academy (Elizabeth, NJ)

New York

CA BOCES-CTE Center (Olean, NY)

Cattaraugus Allegany Boces Center (Ellicottville, NY)

Erie 1 BOCES Kenton Career & Technical Center (Tonawanda, NY)

Erie Community College South (Orchard Park, NY)

GST Boces Bush Campus (Elmira, NY)

HFM Career and Technical Center (Johnstown, NY)

LoGuidice Center- Erie 2 BOCES (Fredonia, NY)

W.D. Ormsby Educational Center (East Aurora, NY)

North Carolina

Cleveland Community College (Shelby, NC)

Forsyth Tech Community College (Winston Salem, NC)

Iredell-Statesville Career Academy & Technical School (Troutman, NC)

Randolph Community College (Asheboro, NC)

Sandhills Community College (Pinehurst, NC)

Southwest High School (Jacksonville, NC)

Weaver Academy (Greensboro, NC)

North Dakota

North Dakota State College of Science (Wahpeton, ND)


EHOVE Career Center (Milan, OH)

Grant Career Center (Bethel, OH)

Knox County Career Center (Mount Vernon,   OH)

Live Oaks Career Campus (Milford, OH)

Miami Valley Career Center (Englewood, OH)

Waite High School (Toledo, Ohio)


Indian Capital Technology Center (Tahlequah, OK)


Clackamas Community College (Oregon City, OR)


Berks Career and Technology Center (Oley, PA)

Central Montco Technical High School (Plymouth Meeting, PA)

Chester County Technical College High School Pennick’s Bridge campus (West Grove, PA)

Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Dauphin County Technical School (Harrisburg, PA)

Forbes Road CTC (Monroeville, PA)

Lebanon County Career and Technology Center (Lebanon, PA)

Northern Westmoreland Career & Technical Center (New Kensington, PA)

Reading-Muhlenburg Career and Technology Center (Reading, PA)

Steel Center (Clairton, PA)

TCHS Pickering (Phoenixville, PA)

West Side Career and Technology Center (Kingston, PA)

South Carolina

Beaufort Jasper Academy for Career Excellence (Ridgeland, SC)


Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Athens, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Chattanooga, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Knoxville, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Paris, TN)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology (Shelbyville, TN)


Alvin ISD, Hensler CTE Campus (Manvel, TX)

Duncanville High School (Duncanville, TX)

Eastfield College (Mesquite, TX)

Kingwood Park High School (Kingwood, TX)

R L Turner High School (Carrollton, TX)

Texarkana College (Texarkana, TX)

Texas State Technical College (Waco, TX)


CATEC (Charlottesville, VA)

New Horizons  (Hampton, VA)

Rockbridge County High School (Lexington, VA)

Triplett Tech (Mount Jackson, VA)

Northern Neck Technical Center (Warsaw, VA)

Washington State

Bellingham Technical College (Bellingham, WA)

Renton Tech College (Renton, WA)

Walla Walla Community College (Walla Walla, WA)

Wenatchee Valley Tech (Wenatchee, WA)

West Virginia

Mercer County Technical Education Center (Princeton, WV)

United Technical Center (Clarksburg, WV)


Chippewa Valley Technical College (Eau Claire, WI)

Fox Valley Technical College (Appleton, WI)

Freedom High School (Freedom, WI)

Southwest Tech (Fennimore, WI)

More information:


Collision Repair Education Foundation, Nov. 9, 2018


Photos 1, 3-4: The Thornton Fractional School District Center for Academics and Technology in Calumet City, Ill., received one of the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s $25,000 grants for 2018. (Provided by Thornton Fractional)

Photos 2, 5: The Collision Repair Education Foundation gave a $25,000 grant to Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, Texas. (Provided by Texas Southmost College)

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