In January of each year, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) thanks our local automotive body repair professionals who not only help our community drive safely every day, but also work with CATEC’s Automotive Body Repair program as Advisory Board members and provide job shadow, internship, and work experiences for our programs’ students. National Auto Body Council Day is celebrated in January each year. Sponsored by the National Auto Body Council (NABC), the awareness day helps highlight the goal of improving the image of collision industry professionals and ensuring the industry is recognized as essential in serving communities.
The automotive body repair industry has a growing demand for qualified automotive body and collision repair technicians, as well as automotive industry experts working in the insurance industry. CATEC is training the next generation of these automotive industry experts. CATEC’s high school Automotive Body Repair program covers competencies that help students to enter the Automotive Body industry after high school, and sometimes even before graduation. Students are taught non-structural analysis, damage repair, welding, and estimating. They work with a variety of materials, using metal finishing and automotive body filling techniques to prepare surfaces and repair panels. Students extensively practice shop safety and gain career skills through workplace readiness training.
Students have opportunities to earn high school credit and income while attending CATEC when they enter internships with Automotive Body shops in Charlottesville. CATEC Auto Body students have support from Halls Auto Body, C’ville Auto Body, and Taylor’s Auto Body. The program has had students participating in job shadowing experiences at Brown’s Collision and internship experiences at Charlottesville Restoration. In 2017-2018, Automotive Body Repair students worked on a school-wide interdisciplinary project to convert a retired diesel school bus into a traveling food bus that serves the community prepared foods from CATEC’s Culinary Arts program. Students repaired body damage to the bus to make it ready for painting and signage. They removed all bus seats, keeping a few to have reupholstered and reinstalled, and lined the inside ceiling and walls with food grade stainless steel.
Automotive Body Repair students take I-CAR Professional Development Program classes throughout the school year, earning industry credentials as they learn. Students can earn up to 20 certifications, making students more marketable when beginning their careers. Students build their knowledge as well as their resumes. I-CAR is an international not-for-profit organization focused on providing information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs. CATEC is now a Fixed Training Site for I-CAR, as well. Because the building is a testing site, CATEC students receive I-CAR tests and curriculum free of change, saving the school $200 per student. Additionally, students can receive four Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications. ASE industry testing is specially designed to evaluate and certify students who are studying in the Automotive service industry.
CATEC’s Automotive Body Repair program has been the lucky recipient of many opportunities over the last few years. In the 2020-2021 school year, the program has received 3M products ranging from polishers to sanders from The Collision Repair Education Foundation through Inter-Industry Conference on Automotive Collision Repair (I-CAR). Last year, Charlottesville Automotive donated 3M respirators so students can continue safety precautions while practicing their hands-on learning. In August 2019, The Collision Repair Education Foundation grant program, through I-CAR, generously donated thousands of dollars’ worth of 3M supplies to the Automotive Body Repair program. Automotive Body Repair Instructor Ronald Moore says the supplies are “needed for all areas of instruction, from dent repair to color sanding final paint for polishing.” In 2018, the program received a $4,000 Collision Repair grant to purchase new tools and shop supplies. The program was also awarded a new Induction Glass Blaster from the Collision Repair Grant/Induction Innovation Award. In 2017, the program received an $11,000 Collision Repair grant to buy the class laptops and carts. The program has used the laptops to study their I-CAR curriculum.
CATEC’s Adult Education programs also offer a two-semester Automotive Body Repair course, Introduction to Collision Repair and Surface Preparation and Refinishing. This course is an instructor-led, demonstrator format with student “hands on” participation. Over the course of the two programs, students learn the fundamentals of auto body repair work. The program is offered to adults who want to begin a new career in the automotive industry or who are car hobbyists looking to work on their own vehicles.
Automotive Body Technicians who repair and refinish the body of vehicles and straighten vehicle frames earn on average $47,000 per year, above the national wage average. Virginia has a projected job growth of 13% for this position. Students who become Automotive Body and Glass Repairers restore the body of vehicles but also repair frames, windshields, and window glass and earn an average of $53,000 in Virginia. They earn an average of 14% higher than the national average with a 9% projected growth in Virginia. Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators evaluate insurance claims and work with insurance companies to ensure payment is processed. On average they earn $63,000 per year and can expect 3% job growth in Virginia.
Upon entering the workforce, automotive body repair workers will be expected to continue their educations through industry-specific training programs. When students graduate from CATEC, they can continue their educations by attending Virginia higher institutions of learning. Students can attend Germanna Community College to become Automotive Diagnosticians or Technicians. At Reynolds Community College students can study to become Diesel Mechanics. And at Old Dominion University they can earn a bachelor of science degree in Motorsports Engineering Technology.
CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.