California Shop Finds Success Using CCI Curriculum to Train New Technicians

Pairing CCI training with a mentor in the shop helped the two recent Universal Training Institute graduates get up to speed.

Eddie, pictured with his mentor Larry, said he is grateful for the program because it allows him to continue expanding his knowledge.

AJ Gaston, general manager at Fix Auto Downey in California, said good technicians who know everything from A to Z are hard to find and often expensive to hire.

“When you do find them, a lot don't do everything 100% properly to repair today’s vehicles,” he said.

Gaston has worked at Fix Auto Downey, owned by Little John’s Bodyworks, for more than 38 years.

Since the family-run business opened in 1960, Gaston said it has built a reputation for quality service and is well-known in the community. Most technicians are long-term employees, but over the years some trainees have left because they weren’t part of a structured training program.

“Many times, when you hire someone new, they think they know how to do certain tasks, but they really don’t,” he noted.

Alex 2Alex 2Alex, one of the helpers at Fix Auto Downey, said CCI is a very hands-on program and is well designed for new techs joining the automotive collision industry. He is pictured with his mentor Larry.

Gaston recently hired two technicians, Alex and Eddie, after they graduated from Universal Technical Institute (UTI). One had worked briefly for a shop and wasn’t progressing, and the other was employed part-time at Fix Auto Downey while attending school.

He said they were taught how to weld and learned basic skills, but they had limited knowledge working on cars.

To help them progress, Gaston wanted to find an apprenticeship program that would allow him to pair the new techs with a mentor so they could learn enough to become full-fledged technicians.

“Everybody who has been in this business for a while thinks they can teach somebody and create a great technician,” Gaston said. “The problem is that our daily life pulls us away from it, and they end up getting spotty education.”

After doing research, he decided that the online apprenticeship program offered by the Collision Career Institute (CCI) was a good fit.

About six years ago, Gaston tested CCI’s program in the shop. At the time, he said it offered many benefits but took time away from a user’s daily duties.

Following the pandemic, Gaston was told CCI had revamped its program and he implemented it again.

“They told us it’s much different and we would like it a lot better,” Gaston recalled. “We really do like how things work now.”

Since implementing it about nine months ago, Gaston said it has helped educate technicians on how to properly repair modern vehicles.

The first step was assessing the incoming technician/student and mentor to ensure they were compatible.

“They did a good job doing this,” he said.

He has been impressed with the program’s flexibility, which allows technicians with industry experience to start the program at the appropriate level.

“That's part of the beauty of the program,” said Gaston. “They don’t have to start over and waste time learning what they have already learned at another shop or technical school.”

Technicians can also input their I-CAR learning into the CCI app.

Alex has used the program for nine months and Eddie started it about four months ago.

“It is part of their daily job, other than one hour a week when they have a conference call with their CCI training manager,” explained Gaston.

“CCI is a very hands-on program and is very well designed for new techs joining the automotive collision industry,” said Alex, one of the helpers. “It's more like an ‘in-person ASE course.’ Each module is well thought out with support from great coaches.”

Eddie agreed.

“My experience with CCI has been outstanding,” he said.

Eddie has found the staff at Fix Auto Downey want to keep track of the students’ progress, and the assignments represent real-world challenges technicians would encounter in any shop, giving them confidence to do any assigned work there.

“I'm grateful for this program because it allows me to continue expanding my knowledge,” he said. “I'm also grateful for the shop where I work because it lets me continue my education in an area I'm passionate about.”

Their mentor, Larry, said CCI’s program helps him keep track of what has been taught to the student and what still needs to be presented.

Gaston said CCI’s program offers a structured approach to collision industry education and includes information to ensure technicians use the proper materials and provide the correct documentation.

It also helps technicians and mentors stay on track by letting them know what module they should work on daily.

“Programs like CCI will help produce good techs that our industry desperately needs,” said Gaston.

Read more about CCI's training program here.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

Website Rt Graphic Ep.51 Nancy Rolland 600x400 1.9.24

Shop & Product Showcase

  • Read testimonials from real collision repair shops about the tools and technologies they use to get the job done.