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Career institute bridges gap between classroom and collision repair shop

Friday, September 28, 2018 - 06:00
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With the technician shortage a continuous pressing issue, many collision repair shops, organizations, and technical schools have put forth initiatives to help usher more talent into the industry.

Since vehicle and repair technology is advancing so quickly, one challenge has been training collision repair students adequately so that they are prepared to begin work in a shop once they graduate. Oftentimes students are taught with equipment or processes that are different from what they will experience once they find employment, and they face a sharp learning curve while acclimating to the shop’s processes.

However, there’s a new solution to this problem. In order to ease the transition from student to employee, Collision Career Institute (CCI) has created a unique program that connects industry-recognized education with hands-on learning through a paid apprenticeship program, thus bridging the gap between traditional vocational programs and on-the-job training.

CCI, based in California, was founded by Erick Bickett, CEO of FixAuto, and Charlie Robertson, a veteran collision repair education instructor, both bringing unique backgrounds and industry experience to find a solution to help solve the technician shortage.

Offering three different tracks—Painter, Body Technician and Repair Planner—CCI guides each trainee through the skills they need to be successful by combining online classes and webinars with on-the-job training. Each of the trainees are guided on the path from “eager-and-willing” to “skilled-and-employed” in 12-18 months.

Amber Ritter, Chief Operations Officer of CCI, recently responded to a series of questions posed by ABRN:

ABRN: How does the curriculum and experience for the student differ from a technical school experience?

Ritter: Each of CCI’s Apprentices begin their education with a full-time job in a sponsoring shop. Our apprenticeship program blends knowledge-based learning with on-the-job skills training. We work with committed shops to manage the process in the best interest of the Apprentice. CCI prepares and trains the shop on how to administer the on-the-job training. Apprentices are learning each skill in a real—not simulated—production environment. On graduation, shops don’t have to retrain apprentices to work in their shops, because that is where they developed their skills. Our experience so far has taught us that by four months into the training, CCI Apprentices are a valued member of the team. Apprentices are motivated to succeed for the company they know is investing in their future.

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ABRN: How does CCI personalize the curriculum to fit the needs of each student?

Ritter: CCI understands that each Apprentice comes to us with their unique strengths, weaknesses, personality, and learning style. We measure each of these areas to maximize Apprentice and shop success. We have a set of skills identified for each Apprentice track, and we adapt the curriculum to help each Apprentice attain those skills. We also prepare the On-the-Job trainer to transfer their skills to the Apprentice in an effective and results-driven manner. 

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