BUCKHANNON – This fall Fred W. Eberle Technical Center students made the most of a community partnership when they brought a 20-year-old Upshur County Head Start school bus back to life.
Through a partnership with Upshur County Head Start, first-year and second-year collision repair technology students at FETC joined forces to tackle rust repairs and paint re-touching on the 2001 bus.
“The Upshur County Head Start bus garage is getting a benefit out of it because we’re helping them out, plus the kids get the benefit of the hands-on experience with the paint, metalwork and assembly,” said Scott Currence, a collision repair technology instructor at FETC for 21 years.
First-year students completed the body prep work, while second-year students gave the bus fresh paint and a refinish. This workplace simulation is modeled after a real-world shop with separate body and paint garages.
“We push that every day here,” Currence said. “They clock in every day, clock out when they leave for lunch. We run things like a business.”
For this specific project, other tasks included repairing a rear taillight and replacing the inside and outside of the rear wheel covers.
To prepare students for their hands-on experiences in the shop, they were asked to complete online modules through Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certification platform and OSHA 10 certifications. This hybrid format gives students and staff the most efficient use of their class time.
“I came in here not knowing what was going on because I didn’t have experience working on vehicles or being in a shop, so our online courses like OSHA and I-CAR really helped prepare me,” said Zade Woody, a first-year collision repair student from Upshur County. “Mr. Currence being able to be here and guide us through it has been really helpful.”
Collision repair technology students at FETC also have the unique opportunity to see the fruits of their labor outside of the shop.
“It’ll be cool — if I see this bus out, I can be like ‘Hey, I worked on that bus!’” Woody said. “It’s a sense of self-accomplishment.”
That same sense of self-accomplishment can be achieved as an industry professional after graduation from FETC.
“If a student completes this program 100%, they can go straight to work,” Currence said. “Most shops will probably hire them at an entry-level position, or some shops may hire them through an apprenticeship as a painter’s helper or in the detail bay, and they’ll work their way up from there.”
Major industry needs for incoming automobile collision repair technicians include soft skills such as time management and prompt attendance to the shop.
Woody noted that shop tasks prepare students for working in a real-world shop while fostering skills that are useful for the rest of their lives.
First-year student McKenna Riley from Upshur County said collision repair techs will always be in demand.
“This class is definitely worth it,” Riley said. “We can receive a better range of jobs after graduation.”
Check out the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center website to learn more about the Collision Repair program and other career training opportunities offered at the school.