Meet the winners of $10,000 classroom makeover grant on behalf of CCC Information Services and the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF)
CCC recently had the opportunity to visit Freedom, Wisconsin to meet with Jay Abitz, instructor of the Freedom High School Automotive Program. Freedom High School, a nationally renowned program, is the winner of the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s (CREF) $10,000 classroom makeover grant furnished by a donation from CCC Information Services.
Freedom High School student Andrey Krisher operates the new brake machine with instructor Jay Abitz.
Freedom High School at a Glance
Located: Freedom, Wisconsin (about 20 miles outside of Green Bay)
Number of auto classes: 4 total (2 mechanical and 2 collision)
Class size: 12-18 students per class and a total of 50-75 per semester
CCC: Tell us a little bit about the collision repair education program at Freedom High School.
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): The Freedom High School Automotive program came to life in 1972 under the guidance of Bob Abitz, who built the program over an outstanding 35 year career. Over the years this program has grown into one of the most renowned and accredited programs in the state and even the nation. FHS is probably best known for its success through the SkillsUSA (formerly VICA) collision repair contest with 22 state champions (state record) and multiple finishes inside the top 10 at nationals. One of the things that make the FHS automotive program special is the focus on collision repair. Since 1972 FHS has taught collision repair techniques such as panel replacement, metal working, welding, plastic repair, cosmetic repair, and refinishing. Students also experience restoration and custom work emphasizing skills like metal and composite fabrication, rust repair, and custom painting and refinishing. It is the goal of the automotive program to expose students to a variety of hands on experiences to prepare them for a career in the automotive industry or personal vehicle maintenance and repair.
CCC: How did you get involved in becoming an instructor?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): My father Bob Abitz started here in 1972 and grew this program to what it is today. When I was younger I always enjoyed working with my father at home, school, and also at the racetrack. My father has a huge racing background and currently works as a tech official for NASCAR; so racing was always a part of my life and my father had a huge influence on me. I attended FHS and during that time I took all of my dad’s classes and spent a lot of time in the shop working on a variety of projects, much like my students do today. I participated in SkillsUSA, won state as a senior and went on to Fox Valley Technical College to study Collision Repair. I competed in SkillsUSA and won state again at FVTC becoming the only person in the history of SkillsUSA Wisconsin to win at the high school and post secondary levels. I transferred to UW-Stout to earn my bachelors in education, hoping to teach in Freedom upon my father’s retirement. It worked out perfectly and I was hired to replace my father in 2007 and have been working to build upon my fathers legacy, and grow the program every since.
CCC: What kind of impact have the donations made to the program? How has it helped the students?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): CCC has been kind enough to donate estimating software for the students to use and we put that program to work in all of our classes. Not only for estimating, but for parts and repair information as well. The classroom makeover grant was a gift I never expected. We are fortunate to have lots of technology and good equipment in our classroom, so I wanted to get something to compliment what we do in the classroom and what we are missing in the shop. One thing we can’t spend enough time on is brakes. We have short 48 minuet class periods, hardly enough time to take brake systems apart, much less service or repair. That is an area that has lacked in our program for a few years, so purchasing the A-TECH brake simulator allows the students to do so much more. Because of the cost of the trainer, it’s something the program could not have purchased on its own. We’ve needed a brake trainer for years, so we are very grateful to CCC for helping us improve our educational technology in the classroom.
CCC: Do you do any work with the local community/repair shops? If so, have they helped with job placement for the students?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): I am very well connected with local shops to place students that are interested in the field. There is a wide variety of automotive jobs in our area with local shops big and small always willing to hire young technicians. We also are involved with our local tech schools to place students into their programs and job markets.
CCC: What’s a typical day look like in your class?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): In our mechanical classes students spend 40% of their time in the classroom studying theory and curriculum delivered through a variety of media. The rest of the time is spent conducting maintenance and repair on their own vehicles and long-term class project cars. In the auto body classes students spend about the same amount of time studying the I-CAR advanced curriculum and PDP-education editions. Then, students go through a number of training sessions on basic skills such as metal repair, fabrication, plastic repair, and refinishing. After they have learned these operations they put their skills to work on project vehicles. Student work varies by semester as students often provide the projects, but we also take community submissions and I provide some of the long term projects as well.
CCC: How have you seen technology change the collision repair industry? In what other ways has the industry changed?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): At the ripe old age of 30, I actually can say I have seen lots of industry changes. The technology involved in the repair process is much more in-depth than it was when I was in high school or at FVTC. Using computers to diagnose problems, to look up repair procedures and do the estimating was unheard of when I was coming up. There was not a computer anywhere near our shop 10 years ago, now students use laptops, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices to find information and help with repairs. Technology is a great asset to our educational process. Computer estimating is a way of life and the programs we use including CCC has almost unlimited amounts of information and uses for myself and my students.
CCC: Why is collision repair a good career choice?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): This industry is so vast that I cannot expose students to enough of it during school. My students can find employment in so many roles from something hands on like working in a shop, or something in sales or insurance. In the difficult job market today, my students with technical and career training are more likely to find satisfying, gainful employment than most people that go to a four year institution. The opportunity our industry presents to young people is limitless!
CCC: How did you learn about the CREF Makeover Program?
Jay Abitz (Freedom High School): FHS has been fortunate enough to be involved with CREF as far back as its original I-CAR Foundation years ago. We have applied for the makeover grant since its inception and our participation with CREF has provided a ton of value! We have not only been fortunate enough to receive the classroom makeover grant from CCC, but also have thrived on the donations of tools, technology, education, and materials from CREF and its industry partners. We are very grateful for CREF and its industry supporters like CCC and their passion for growing collision repair education.
Freedom High School’s Success
Since 2007, Freedom High School has seen approximately 200 students participate in the collision repair program. Of those 200, Freedom helped place over 80 students into collision-related jobs or post-secondary programs. What may be the program’s most impressive feat is the fact is that only 5 students to date have not found some sort of work either within or outside of the collision repair industry.
About Freedom High School Automotive Repair Program
The Freedom High School Automotive (FHSA) program came to life in 1972 under the guidance of Bob Abitz, who built the program over an outstanding 35 year career. Over the years this program has grown into one of the most renowned and accredited programs in the state and even the nation. FHSA is probably best known for its success through the SkillsUSA (formerly VICA) collision repair contest with 22 state champions (state record) and multiple finishes inside the top 10 at nationals. One of the things that make the FHSA program special is the focus on collision repair. Since 1972 FHSA has taught collision repair techniques such as panel replacement, metal working, welding, plastic repair, cosmetic repair, and refinishing. Students also experience restoration and custom work emphasizing skills like metal and composite fabrication, rust repair, and custom painting and refinishing. It is the goal of the automotive program to expose students to a variety of hands on experiences to prepare them for a career in the automotive industry or personal vehicle maintenance and repair. Students use a variety of current industry standard repair techniques, tools, and materials to complete repairs on vehicles.
About Collision Repair Education Foundation
The ultimate goal of the Collision Repair Education Foundation is to create a future in which every entry-level technician hired will have graduated with the necessary skills and understanding of new technology to be well-trained, productive, and efficient employees from day one on the job. We are committed to helping the industry recruit and educate students of the highest caliber, and to increasing graduation rates in training programs. We are committed to making sure that students in every market have access to the very best collision repair education. And, most of all, we are committed to the future of our industry as a highly-skilled, rewarding career choice that provides jobs that won’t be outsourced, enhances the economic wellbeing of local communities, and saves lives. Visit CREF at: http://collisioneducationfoundation.org/
About CCC Information Services Inc.
CCC brings together what matters most – insight to make the best decisions, connections into the industry’s leading auto claims network and superior productivity through an innovative single platform. Founded in 1980, CCC is the nation’s leading provider of advanced software, workflow tools and enabling technologies to the automotive claims and collision repair industries. Its client base includes more than 350 insurance companies and more than 21,000 repair facilities. CCC also delivers the most comprehensive, best-in-class industry insights by leveraging data captured from the millions of transactions processed through its network, and the forward-looking, trusted advisor perspective of its people. You can find out more about CCC Information Services Inc. by visiting the company’s web site at www.cccis.com.
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