Valley Works: Body shop careers expanding

November 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It is a trade that is practically recession-proof. Nearly everyone is going to need one at one time or another.

Employment opportunities for auto body repair technicians is expected to grow considerably.

The major problem is there just aren't many training facilities teaching the trade. A partnership involving the Central Unified Adult School and those in the industry is working very hard to fill the void.

As long as there are cars on the highway accidents will happen

But those in the auto body repair industry will tell you the technicians who fix crumpled cars are aging and their numbers shrinking.

"We are in great need of younger people coming into our industry," Ted Ehresman Of Travelers Body & Fender Works said.

With the demise of vocational education in many schools owners and managers of body shops like Ted Ehresman's saw this looming shortage coming and decided to do something about it. They reached out to Central Unified Adult School.

"And they said we have a need to train students to get into this trade," Patrick Flattley, director of Central Adult School, said.

The school, insurance companies, local auto body shops and the Fresno Regional Occupational Program formed a partnership and developed a program to train the next generation of auto body repair technicians.

Joe Velasquez owns a body repair shop and also teaches this course. He says there is no other program like it

"It's not a very long course; it's about three and a half months," Velasquez said. "We get your foot in the door,.we get you into a body shop and you have to prove yourself from there."

Along with the classroom work, students spend two weeks working at Velasquez shop learning the basics. After that they spend six weeks interning at a local auto body shop.

"And it's a lot of stuff you don't learn in the books and with hands on you actually learn a lot," student Reggie Felton said.

Felton is hoping the training and the certificate he gets from this program will help him land a job.

"Most places you have to be certified, there are jobs out there but you've got to have the training for them," he said.

Some students, like Damon Pearson, were hired before he finished the program.

"You have to have a clear mind and be focused on what you want to do and have the drive and will power," Pearson said.

Damon has been at his job at travelers body works for three years and now he is helping to train others.

"They take these young people under their wing, they train them and get close to them - it works well for both of us," Pearson said.

The class offered through Central Unified Adult School costs $40, that includes the book and as long as you are a junior in high school you can enroll in the program. They also prepare you for employment with help with a resume and interview techniques.

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