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Collision shops are working together to interest students in hands-on work

Not everyone wants or needs a liberal arts degree. For those young people, vocational and technical education can be the path to a rewarding career.

In-demand sectors like welding, auto mechanics and plumbing will always need workers. The scarcity of workforce in some local shops virtually guarantees employment.

As News staff reporter Barbara O’Brien wrote, collision shop owners are experiencing an extreme shortage of workers. They need young people to sign on and work their way up the ranks. Companies that compete for business have agreed to work together on the problem.

Frank Todaro, owner of Collision Masters, said: “We all decided to sit down as a group, not competitors, and say we need to do something about this.”

That determination resonates with Erie 1 BOCES, which sought a way to increase participation in its two-year collision repair program. The institution saw its enrollment numbers drop from 45 in the 2011-12 school year to 29 three years later. That rose a bit to 35 students last year, still far fewer than the 142 in the auto technician program.

Shop owners decided that it was in their best interest to cooperate among themselves and with BOCES by taking responsibility for growing the ranks of their employees.

It’s a smart decision and one that will pay off for the shops and for young people. Imagine the delight of the students entering the new paid pre-apprenticeship program this summer. Students picked up invaluable experience working at Carubba Collision, Gabe’s Collision, Joe Basil Chevrolet, West Herr and Collision Masters. They got a chance to build resumes while working side by side with pros in a supportive environment that welcomed their assistance.

A 2013 survey on the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair’s website revealed plenty of opportunity for young people to get well-paying jobs. And collision work is just one field to consider. There are many others.

Young people can consider options available through BOCES, the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology or the Career Collegiate Institute, a component of the Buffalo Public Schools Adult Education Division. Community colleges offer a range of degree and certificate programs to prepare students for hospitality jobs and employment at SolarCity in South Buffalo, to name a couple of potential career paths.

There are numerous opportunities for well-paying and satisfying careers that will always be in demand. Adults must do a good job in getting that message across and supporting young people along the way.

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