Ford Initiative Helping to Solve the Collision Tech Shortage

Dec 08, 2023
<2 MIN READ

The collision repair industry needs technicians, and industry professionals believe the Collision Engineering Program (CEP) is the apprenticeship model answer to the shortage. 

Ford Supports Future Talent

In January, Ford Motor Company Fund and Enterprise Holdings Foundation partnered to introduce the industry-leading Collision Engineering Program (CEP) aiming to attract and develop talented students to fill essential roles within the collision repair industry. Tiffany Silva, owner of Accurate Auto Body in Richmond, California says the industry has complained about the lack of technicians for years and talked about it but taken no action.

“Collision Engineering is a solution we’ve all been looking for,” she said. “It is a model that is such a breath of fresh air in our shops, bringing these technicians in that are learning from our industry.”

The Apprenticeship Model

CEP’s unique two-year apprenticeship model provides students with scholarships and resources to overcome barriers to their academic success. The program offers comprehensive support, including start-up assistance, instructor training, school equipment, and additional student-centered resources, giving students the tools they need to define and achieve their dreams.

“We’re really entering an unprecedented time of technological change,” says Jennifer Boyer, Ford Customer Service Director of Strategy and Collision Business and Collision Engineering Advisory Council Member. 

The program not only teaches the skills necessary to repair a vehicle properly and safely, but it also teaches the life skills needed for that student to really have a fruitful future.
Jennifer Boyer
Ford Customer Service Director of Strategy

An Industry-Connected Program

Now available at seven schools in California, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, and Missouri, the program is unique because of the involvement by industry employers. They work with schools and the students, ensuring training stays in line with trends and vehicle advancements.

“I was slowly getting into cars and I wanted to learn more about them,” said Sam Ortega, CEP graduate. “I was trying to do the mechanical side but I went into painting, and it was interesting and fun so I stayed with it. The instructor talked about the program, the internship, and I found it interesting because not only would I be learning in school but I’d be learning and using that learning in real life.”

Octavio Cavazos, CEP instructor and department chair at the College of Lake County in Illinois, said the second semester is when the students really begin to shine as they start more hands-on learning.

“After being out for that first internship, that’s when you see the light bulb turning on, that’s when they come back with more questions, more hunger for the knowledge,” he said. “That’s where you really start seeing the students engaging more in the classroom, engaging in the internship, trying to have that hunger to be fed and they want to learn… at first, they’re like, ‘How are we going to be able to get through these two years?’ Eight weeks on, eight weeks off is daunting. But after that first semester, you have a completely new student cohort in your hands. You almost have to try to keep up with them at that time.”

Rigorous, Rewarding Schedule

The CEP apprenticeship model includes eight weeks in the classroom and eight weeks in the collision repair shop in a rotation for two years ending in an associate’s degree. Both the associate’s degree and the apprenticeship program are backed by the Department of Labor and Education. Students also have the opportunity to gain additional certifications during their training. When they’re finished, they already have a job before they’ve even graduated. This approach addresses the tech shortage from a regional or a local level.

When asked what they look for in an employer, Karina Badillo, College of Lake County CEP graduate says their priority to invest in her career path.

“I wanted to know that the shop was just as eager to progress and learn about what was coming in the next models as I was to learning about the cars,” she said. “In school, we were always learning about procedures and looking everything up and printing it out and making sure that everything was done the right way… “I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was going to impact the way that it should and I’m not going to be picking up bad habits… and was just as invested in my schooling as I was, was a really big determining factor for me.”

To learn more about CEP, visit beacollisionengineer.com.