Ensuring the next generation of collision repair professionals receive an education that allows them to successfully enter the workforce after graduation requires the support of the entire industry.
I-CAR, a longtime supporter of the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), recognizes this and encourages its committees across the country to get involved with their local collision repair educational programs.
In 2020, I-CAR donated $145,000 to assist CREF’s ability to provide tools, equipment, school grants and student scholarships to collision programs nationwide.
“On behalf of the industry, I-CAR is pleased to make this contribution that helps bolster the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s ongoing commitment to providing students with grants and scholarships that launch their careers in the collision repair industry,” said John Van Alstyne, CEO and president of I-CAR. “The foundation has a very important mission on behalf of our industry; everything they do helps schools do a better job of developing the talent necessary to sustain our industry.
“Although I-CAR donates these funds to CREF, we’re really just the conduit for the donation; funds are reserved from all our industry training activities, and I-CAR facilitates that donation on behalf of all the organizations and individuals who take our training,” Van Alstyne continued. “Everyone has financial constraints, but the health of our industry is vital to every participant in it. Without a healthy industry, we cannot have healthy businesses. It’s incumbent on all industry organizations to support initiatives like the Collision Repair Education Foundation.”
Through its efforts with collision repair educational facilities around the U.S., CREF provides support to more than 20,000 collision repair students.
Since 2012, I-CAR has provided financial donations to CREF totaling more than $1.6 million dollars, which assist CREF in its mission to support collision repair educational programs, schools and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities.
“CREF has an excellent track record of efficiently deploying funds to ensure they are channeled where they are most needed, and that’s something the industry can feel good about,” Van Alstyne noted. “But I-CAR joins CREF in advocating for industry professionals to get engaged with their local schools on a more personal level. Your involvement---giving shop tours, joining advisory committees or even...
...participating in an apprenticeship program---reaps major benefits for the schools and the students. Proof of this can be seen in the work of the I-CAR committees.”
I-CAR believes local engagement with schools and students is so important, many of their committee goals are related to these efforts. Committees are encouraged to get involved with school advisory boards, the Adopt-a-School program, host or attend a local career fair, and collaborate with CREF to hold a fundraising event to benefit a local school.
“As the I-CAR Field Sales team became immersed in the career and technical school segment, we realized the impact that some of our committees have with schools in different markets," said I-CAR Director of Field Sales Terry Ticel. "The more we engaged with these schools, we found that an opportunity existed for us to do a lot more with and for them. Already participating with CREF in many events, we sought to fortify our connection and collaboration.
"Many of our committees were already involved heavily with schools and CREF, yielding significant results. Based on those results, we wanted to make our participation more robust across the country.
“Our committees love the school participation and we found it fitting to align the I-CAR Committees goals to support CREF’s initiatives and outreach to help do our part in improving the talent crisis across the collision industry," Ticel continued. "Our alignment surrounding participating in the Adopt-a-School program, fundraising events and advisory board participation allows us to work closer with CREF and support their efforts, while being visible in the schools and support the industry.
“This allows industry experts to provide students and instructors with insight into what the collision repair industry is truly seeking in entry-level technicians. That connection and communication is so important for these students’ success, and their success will be the industry’s future success.”
Schools are desperate for support and collaboration from the collision repair industry to ensure...
...their educational programs stay relevant as the industry advances.
“Communication between schools and shops is vitally important. If the industry wants the schools’ help with the talent crisis, we need to assist them,” Ticel said, urging industry professionals to get involved.
“Research CREF and understand what their mission is. You can support them not only with financial contributions, but also with tools, equipment and supplies," Ticel said. "We often hear about good functioning equipment, tools and supplies being just thrown away, but these schools need those tools and equipment---CREF can identify a school that needs your shop’s used goods.
"Also, get involved with your local schools. Participate on their advisory council, tour their facility and present to the students the opportunities that exist in the collision repair industry.
"Lastly, get involved with the local I-CAR committee. We are always looking for new members,” Ticel said.
“The Collision Repair Education Foundation literally would not exist without the foresight and investment by I-CAR on behalf of the collision industry to support collision schools and students across the country," said CREF Executive Director Clark Plucinski. "Since our founding in 1991, I-CAR staff, its volunteers and its board and industry supporters have worked side by side with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to support the pre-employment education system the industry relies upon for its future workforce.”
Supporting the schools training future collision repair professionals is vital because “it’s all about sustainability,” Van Alstyne said. “Today’s students will drive our industry tomorrow, and we applaud the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s longtime focus on expanding and promoting quality collision repair educational opportunities for them.
"Our two organizations have a close relationship, and we are excited to help shape the future together. We encourage the entire industry to get involved with helping schools become more successful and properly educate the industry’s future employees. That’s the only way to solve this industry’s talent crisis.”
Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting CREF's efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, director of development, at 312-231-0258 or Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org.