Audatex, CCC and Mitchell donated more than $10 million in software subscriptions to more than 500 collision repair schools in 2021, the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) has announced.
The donations, made in partnership with CREF, will enable the students to learn on the same software that’s widely used in the collision repair and insurance industries, at no cost to them or their schools.
“The Foundation is grateful to Audatex, CCC and Mitchell for their generous ongoing support of the collision industry’s education system and providing this invaluable opportunity for the next generation of technicians, estimators and suppliers,” CREF’s director of operations and impact, Melissa Marscin, said in a statement.
“Due to very limited funding, collision schools cannot always afford to purchase the latest programs and technologies for students to learn on,” Marscin said. The donations will make these students “better entry-level employees since students who have access to the most recent technology during their education are more likely to be successful when they begin their career in the industry.”
The donations support CREF’s goal to “ensure that there is a top-tier collision school in every market in America,” and to make certain that these programs “have the newest tools, equipment, and supplies to enhance the educational experience, giving students the necessary skills and experience with current repair technology taught in a realistic, practical environment.”
Audatex’s donations are part of the company’s collaboration with CREF on the Audatex Educational Institutions Program, which also provides eligible schools with access to online courses and training, a custom curriculum that includes CEUs and I-CAR points, and technical support. According to CREF, nearly 300 schools in 41 states have received Audatex estimating software through the partnership, with the number increasing each year.
CCC, a founding member of CREF, has donated software, onsite and virtual training, and technical support services to more than 500 schools. The CCC ONE Estimating software package donated by CCC includes digital imaging capabilities, access to tire and recall databases, paintless dent repair guidelines, and frame specifications, along with other products and multi-user access. It also grants access to CCC Repair Methods and CCC ONE Touch, CCC’s mobile estimating solution.
Mitchell’s contribution to CREF includes free access to Mitchell Cloud Estimating with Integrated Repair Procedures for students enrolled in participating schools. Using Mitchell solutions, students learn the importance of OEM repair procedures as they diagnose collision damage and develop repair plans for today’s complex vehicles.
Workforce development is a key concern for the collision repair industry, with baby boomers aging out of the workplace. “Representatives from Universal Technical Institute predict a wave of retiring baby boomers will create 100,000 auto technician job openings over the next decade or so, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 4 percent decline in employment in the overall auto technician field through 2029,” Susanna Gotch wrote in the 2022 edition of CCC’s Crash Course study.
“Finding technicians with the right skill sets is also a growing challenge as vehicle complexity increases,” Gotsch, CCC’s senior director and industry analyst, wrote. “In fact, most repairers indicate the technician shortage has been the primary reason for longer backlogs of work. Repair work is up as auto accident frequency has risen. Many shops have indicated they cannot repair as many vehicles at the same time as they did before the pandemic.”
Many analysts have pointed out that wages that are lower than those paid in other, similar fields have made it difficult to attract new talent, leaving some vocational training programs underenrolled.
CREF updated this year’s application, breaking it down into five sections: Recruitment, Program Maintenance, Program Additions, Employment, and Fueling Innovations, a new category designed to help programs try new and innovative ideas with the possibility of recreating those programs for others across the country.
The update is intended to make the program “more impact-driven, goal-oriented and measurable,” the foundation said.
“Schools and instructors often struggle to maintain their program at its current capability level due to tremendous budgetary pressure, but advancing technology requires constant improvements to the training they provide in order to ensure the industry’s future collision professionals enter the industry with the necessary skills to become effective members of the workforce,” Marscin said.
“Through the industry’s generosity, CREF designed the Benchmark Grant program as a way of helping equip collision educational programs with the materials and support needed to elevate students’ educational experience in accordance with industry standards.”
In 2021, more than 80 schools received a total of $329,000 in Benchmark Grants. Since 2009, CREF has relied on industry donations to provide collision repair educational programs with over $5 million in cash and in-kind donations.
Industry members interested in supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, managing director, at 312-231-0258 or Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org. Monetary donations can be made online.