The program follows Ranken Technical College’s unique apprenticeship model, which prepares students for success by treating them as professionals from day one. Designed with auto collision industry needs in mind, the program encourages schools and industry to work together to facilitate lifelong learning for the future leaders of the collision industry.
Through this defined two-year apprenticeship model, students receive real-world education by working alongside industry experts while also earning their associate degree. Participating students from Ranken Technical College, College of Lake County, Contra Costa College and Texas State Technical College are matched with an employer partner. A portion of the student’s pay for work completed at the shop is subsidized by the program. Students rotate between eight weeks of classroom/lab experience and eight weeks of full-day work-based learning at a participating collision repair facility.
Several body shops (both multi-shop operators and independents) as well as the Ford Certified Collision Network are participating in the program and promoting the opportunity to host a student apprentice at their shops. Any shops that are interested in participating are encouraged to contact John Helterbrand, National Automotive Collision Engineering Program Director and Automotive Collision Repair Department Chair at Ranken Technical College.
“This program is about changing the approach to educating students for a career in collision repair,” said Helterbrand. “Unlike traditional classroom-based models, our program introduces students to the industry early on – providing opportunities to gain practical collision engineering experience, and ultimately better preparing new technicians to enter the modern workforce.”
The Ranken model, which already operated under a hybrid learning philosophy, easily adapted to new educational challenges that have arisen as a result of COVID-19. A digital learning management system has likewise been developed and rolled out to the other participating schools to facilitate virtual learning.
An initial investment from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation is funding program expenses for the two-year pilot, as well as an industry-first digital advertising campaign to raise awareness of the career path among prospective students, their parents and school counselors.
With slogans like, “Where Silicon Valley & Motor City Collide,” the campaign aims to update the perception of a career in the collision industry. “The automobile has changed dramatically in recent years. As vehicles continue to grow in complexity, so do the repair processes required of technicians,” Helterbrand added. “Tomorrow’s automotive technician will be much more like an engineer.”
“We’re proud to be spearheading the Automotive Collision Engineering Program through this innovative pilot. As the world’s largest car rental provider and an industry leader in mobility and technology, we have a huge stake in the health of the automotive repair industry and are committed to doing our part to invest in its success,” said Mary Mahoney, Vice President, Insurance Replacement Division at Enterprise Holdings. “We’re encouraging other industry leaders to join us in addressing the industry shortage and shaping the future of automotive repair.”