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Extra money in your year-end bottom line? Industry encouraged to donate to collision repair programs

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Integrity Auto Collision Center has donated $2,500 to the Contra Costa College Foundation, one of seven Collision Engineering Program (CEP) schools — a step that Laura Lozano hopes more in the collision industry will take to pitch in.

CEP is a national workforce development program founded by Enterprise Holdings and Ranken Technical College that offers a two-year apprenticeship to attract and develop entry-level talent. Students learn in both classrooms and modern collision engineering facilities.

At repair centers, students are paired with a mentor, or sometimes more than one, who guides them on how to safely and properly repair vehicles. The goal is for the apprenticeship to either turn into a full-time job after students earn their associate degree, or give them real-world experience to make getting a job after graduation easier.

2022 Techforce Foundation study found that 232,000 techs were needed in 2021 across automotive, diesel, and collision but schools were graduating only 42,000. In collision alone, the demand was 35,000 techs while only 4,500 graduated. The study predicted more than 110,000 new collision technicians would be needed by 2026.

Oscar Moreno, owner of Integrity Auto Collision in Fairfield, California and CCC Foundation Advisory Board member, approached Lozano, CCC collision repair technology professor and Automotive Department co-chair, with the idea of a donation to the program. He attended CCC for collision repair prior to its participation in the CEP.

Moreno said he wanted to donate because of the need in the industry for technicians.

“I do see the need of investing in our youth for the next generation of technicians,” Moreno told Repairer Driven News. “I just want to do what I feel is right for the next generation and give the students an opportunity to study the industry and come into the industry.”

He kept the amount a surprise until a check presentation was held Wednesday at the college’s collision repair shop.

“I started my career in collision [in] early 2000; learned a lot in this very classroom,” said Moreno, at the check presentation event. “Twenty-plus years later, having my own business, we are able to donate… Hopefully, we are able to inspire more body shops, or more people to donate to the collision repair program at Contra Costa College so that we can bring more young people into the program.

“I feel grateful and blessed that, at this point, Integrity Auto Collision is able to donate and that is beyond a personal goal — beyond my wildest dreams as a technician — so today is a special day for me personally.”

CCC 2020 graduate, Guillermo Navarro, 24, apprenticed at Moreno’s shop and has been employed there for three years. He also attended the check presentation.

Navarro’s advice to aspiring collision repair technicians is to enter the industry with an open mind.

“It looks pretty easy but once you’re in this industry it could [be] a whole different ball game,” he said. “I just had an open mind here and put in a lot of effort, a lot of studying. I’m staying in this industry forever. It’s another home here so I don’t see it like a job.”

The first five graduates of CCC’s CEP — Jesse DeLeon, Bryan Ahumada, Cinthia Pool, Sam Ortega, and David Bone — received their diplomas in May. CEP is currently active at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, Missouri; College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois; Collin College in Allen, Texas; Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas, and Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska.

Moreno said he plans to invite more students to tour his shop so they can see what it would be like to work in the industry and gauge interest in the skilled trade.

“Just like Guillermo, I see the value in some other students — that’s what the industry needs — somebody that wants to learn, somebody that is inspired to get better, someone that is looking for an opportunity, and Guillermo got the opportunity and he’s doing really good,” he said.

Navarro has already advanced in his career, moving up to handling structural repair and helping out with a CCC CEP class.

Lozano said the donation will be used toward funding CCC’s next set of industry-led or manufacturer-led training for the collision engineering class, which results in certification for students. The cost is typically around $10,000 each year. Seven students were certified this year to be apprentices next year.

CCC also plans to put some of the money toward sending its next CEP class to the 2024 SEMA Show, which is estimated to cost $10,000 as well.

Another donation, of $5,000 by Toyota of Berkeley Certified Collision Center, was given to the CEP in November.

“I know there’s not going to be any superhero come and save the industry so someone’s got to do something and I think it’s something that, we as industry leaders, should start,” Moreno said. “Body shop owners need to really pay attention to this and we all need to contribute. There are so many body shops out there that if we were to get together and say, ‘OK, let’s pitch in, let’s try to contribute, let’s try to help,’ in five years we’ll be talking about a different topic.

“But it seems like a very small percentage of body shops are approaching the issue in a different way and most body shops are just complaining about the the shortage of personnel in the industry. I think it starts with ourselves trying to fix the problem and hopefully, by doing so, we can inspire more people to pitch in to try and help.”

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to CCC, which oftentimes is easier to do at this time of year while rounding out the bottom line for year-end, to the nonprofit can visit the foundation’s website and click “Donate Now.”

“We live in a country where there’s not enough governmental funds to cover all we need covered,” said CCC Foundation Executive Director Sara Marcellino. “We rely on the largesse and generosity of our community to do a lot of the things that, certainly in the nonprofit sector, we feel will make the world and our communities better places.

“It feels really good to give. Anyone who’s considering making a donation to any effort, especially to our students here at Contra Costa College, you’re really making a difference.”

Marcellino and Lozano encourage anyone in the industry to donate to their local colleges and trade schools to boost support for budding technicians.


Featured image: Contra Costa College Professor and Automotive Department Co-Chair Laura Lozano was presented a $2,500 check from Integrity Auto Collision owner Oscar Moreno for the college’s Collision Engineering Program on Dec. 6, 2023. (Provided by CCC CEP)

(From left) Adjunct professor Peter Lock, Collision Engineering Workforce Coordinator Stephanie Nitz, Part-time faculty member Craig Komori, Contra Costa College Professor and Automotive Department Co-Chair Laura Lozano, Integrity Auto Collision owner Oscar Moreno, Integrity Auto technician Guillermo Navarro, CCC Advisory Committee Co-Chair Brian Gutierrez Jr., and Contra Costa College Foundation Executive Director Sara Marcellino. (Provided by CCC CEP)

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Collision Engineering Program touted as ‘breath of fresh air,’ tech shortage solution for industry

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