IA School’s Mechanics Club Gets Hands-On with Collision Repairs

Beckman Catholic student Noble Hoeger, left, learns about spot welding from Nick Klein, right, main collision tech at Auto Tech. Photo by Daniel Charland/Dyersville Commercial.

The Beckman Catholic High School B-TECH/Mechanics Club attended an auto repair visit/demonstration day Feb. 24 with Southwest Tech at Auto Tech.

According to Steven Lueck, assistant principal at Beckman Catholic, the Mechanics Club is a fairly new, but large, club of students who have a strong interest in auto mechanics and like to be involved in hands-on activities.

“A year or two ago, several students started asking about possibly having classes regarding anything with diesel mechanics," Lueck said. "Instead of creating an entire class, we wanted to start with making an afterschool club. They meet up in different places throughout the community to look at different businesses and see their ins and outs… We thought it was going to be a small club but it now has 50 kids.”

Greg Wubben, an auto collision repair instructor at Southwest Tech, said the tech school trains students to get entry-level jobs in a collision body shop and partners with high schools on a regular basis.

“When the cars you see on the road every day get in a wreck, there’s a huge demand for technicians to fix them,” said Wubben. “So we come out to high schools and show them what the career is all about, a few things we do every day in the shop and talk about how the school can help them get the training they need to get out and get that job.”

Attending members of the Mechanics Club got to try their hands at virtual painting, welding, sanding, buffing headlights and plastic welding, to get a sense of what it’s like to work in the Auto Tech shop and what a collision technician does on a daily basis. Behind all the practical skills, according to Wubben, is the key element of work ethic.

“Just come in and put forth a good effort---you get great satisfaction out of creating this stuff with your hands or, in the case of collision repair, recreating it," Wubben said. "Students who come into my program and attempt the tasks assigned will be successful.”

Lueck said the goal of the trip was to give the students work-based learning and expose them to tools for getting into the field after graduation. The partnership also benefits local businesses by connecting them with potential employees in a field that needs more people.

“We’re really trying to bring work and businesses into the school experience," Lueck said. "The challenge at high school sometimes is there’s a lot of interest in different subjects and, in order to help these kids learn more in their particular subject, it’s easier to bring them to different businesses than to have it in the classroom.

“This is an excellent opportunity for them to not only understand this particular business but what Dyersville has to offer with jobs," Lueck continued. "It’s a win-win because there are a lot of openings out there for diesel mechanics or anything mechanic-related and a lot of these kids are on that pathway for jobs. Even if they aren’t, a lot of them will probably use this information in other jobs they’re looking at, like farming or manufacturing.”

Auto Tech Body Shop Manager Levi Benn said his shop has a long-running relationship with Southwest Tech, as they have a shared goal of trying to get new people into the industry. While this was his first time partnering with the school, Benn said he welcomes the opportunity to continue school partnerships and give students even more hands-on experiences.

“This is our test run---if the students take a liking to it, I have no problem working with any high school in the area with Southwest Tech to do a Stage Two for the actual fixing of dents or suiting these kids up to actually paint some parts,” Benn said.

Any schools interested in arranging field trips to Auto Tech may contact the business at autotechinc@windstream.net.

We thank the Dyersville Commercial for reprint permission.

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