East Valley Institute of Technology will soon partner with private manufacturers to bring a premier automotive collision training facility to Mesa.
“Training is provided by manufacturers,” said John Rang, managing partner of Leading Edge Auto and Kachina Automotive Equipment. “They’ll get it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”
The high school will partner with private companies to give students the most relevant education in collision repair, including BASF Automotive Refinish, a leading automotive paint manufacturer and Chief Automotive Technologies, a company that sells repair equipment, Rang said.
Such a program is the realization of a life-long dream for Rang.
“I’m 62 years old. I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” he said. “I’ll be doing this for another three to four years. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and never been able to do.”
EVIT CEO and Superintendent Sally Downey said, “We must bring industry to the table if we are going to provide the finest training in the world. We needed to partner with two of Arizona’s most influential market leaders. Leading Edge and Kachina Automotive are recognized as innovative market leaders and industry visionaries in Arizona. When I asked them to outline their vision of what they believed our program could become I was taken back at the depth, the vision and their comprehensive strategy.”
EVIT tailors its programs to the needs of industry, and the need for well-trained, skilled technicians is great, Rang said.
“It means I’ll get students who know the latest technologies, not what was being used 20 years ago,” said Kyle Danielson, Invision Auto Body general manager in Mesa. “Up-to-date training means I won’t have to reeducate them for what’s in my shop.”
Rather than drilling holes into the metal and pulling the metal out to fix dents, today’s technology welds tips to the metal to pull out the dent, said John Schira of Kustom Koachworks Body Shop in Mesa.
“When you’re drilling holes, you’re actually doing damage,” Schira said. “The goal is to restore the vehicle back, not to compromise the metal.”
Because of changes in the way that cars are constructed, along with the updated technologies used to repair them, it’s really important that students learn current repair skills, Schira said.
“Obviously, the more training they get in an academic setting, the less training we have to do when they come here,” Schira said. “We have no problem investing in an employee’s training as long as they stay here long enough. But these students can be more productive in a shorter time-frame.”
The increased training may mean high-paying jobs for graduates, Rang said.
“In our industry, a good body technician makes $70,000 to $100,000 a year,” he said.
The industry has changed, and the changes to body shops are twofold.
“There is a severe lack of trained technicians to repair these automobiles,” Rang said.
And when it comes to repairing cars, often it means removing and replacing parts, rather than fixing the damaged pieces.
Additionally, as more people retire, many companies are having a harder time replacing them with skilled workers, Rang said.
“With the way that education is pushing them, it pushes them away from hands-on, high-paying jobs,” Danielson said. “Having this program at EVIT, attracting people to this industry is a huge benefit.”
A benefit that should be a win-win for both students and industry, Schira said.
“We all want to earn a living in a way that we love,” he said.
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