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CREF Scholarships and Support Enable Body Shop Estimator to Move Up the Ladder Faster

Justin Furman credits his career successes to the support he received from the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and PPG.

Written for the Collision Repair Education Foundation, Printed in Autobody News

Hoffman Estates, Ill. (September 16, 2020) –

Justin Furman, an estimator at Bill Brown Ford on the fast track to becoming a manager, largely credits his career successes to the support he received from the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and PPG. “The scholarships I received from the industry enabled me to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management, virtually debt-free,” Furman said.

“Unburdened by worries about college debt, I was able to focus my attention on my passion for the automotive industry,” Furman added. “Additionally, my relationship with CREF provided a solid foundation to show the industry that I’m seriously invested in pushing myself to the utmost limits of success, including by having the proper tools and equipment, which were funded by CREF’s Tool Grant.

Furman’s passion for cars began when he was a young boy, playing with Hot Wheels and building model cars. “My desire to pursue a career in the collision repair industry reached the tipping point when I purchased my first vehicle, a 2000 Dodge Dakota Sport. I didn’t even have my license yet, just my permit, and I backed into a fence post while pulling out of the driveway,” he recalled. “My uncle, who does restoration, showed me how to restore the vehicle back to pre-accident condition. From there, I was hooked and knew I wanted to learn all I could about auto body.”

Although Furman traded his first car for a 1999 Dodge Dakota R/T, he continued experimenting with repairs. “The R/T trim model has a V8 and some other upgrades as well, and I did a complete paint job back in 2011,” he shared. “This truck was the staple for me in helping my knowledge for customization, mechanical, body and refinish work. To this day, I still own this vehicle.”

While pursuing his degree for Technology Management through the 3+1 program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Furman applied for various scholarships from CREF and other industry organizations. The 3+1 program allows students to complete three years at Washtenaw Community College and transfer to EMU for one year before graduating.

During his days as a student, Furman received $8000 in CREF scholarships, plus he was the recipient of several grants that provided him with vital training and tools. In 2011, he was awarded a $1000 Lon Baudoux Scholarship as well as a tool grant, which provided him with a 268-piece mechanic tool set with lift-top case, as well as a Microtork torque wrench and a 10-drawer ball-bearing tool chest.

CREF also awarded Furman a $2000 Collision Repair Education Foundation Board of Trustees Scholarship in 2012, and in 2013, he received a $5000 PPG Industries Foundation scholarship, in addition to the Alcoa Foundation grant for aluminum repair technical training at the I-CAR Tech Centre.

According to Furman, “Just applying for these scholarships caused word to spread quickly around the automotive department at WCC, and since my instructors could see how invested I was, they helped me expand my network within the automotive industry. Graduating virtually debt-free allowed me to invest in tools and equipment which opened job opportunities. Receiving the scholarships from CREF and PPG, plus having the proper equipment to do the job I was being hired for, enabled me to land high-end jobs quickly and move up the ladder faster than if I hadn’t enjoyed these advantages.”

During college, Furman worked in the painting department at Roush Industries, where he refinished Mustang accessories and roller coaster rides for Disney theme parks. After a couple years, he pursued an opportunity at J&J Collision in Dearborn Heights, Mich., working as an estimator and assistant manager.

When the possibility of moving from a small independent shop to a larger MSO presented itself, Furman seized the chance to hone his skillset and challenge himself by accepting a position at Collision Damage Experts of Canton, Mich. “In just one year, I was afforded the opportunity to expand my knowledge in the industry, learning more about CCC One production management software, direct repair programs, and how to increase production levels,” he noted.

In 2016, Furman applied for an estimating job at Bill Brown Ford, which promised potential room for growth. “I’ve now been with Bill Brown Ford for a little over four years as an estimator, with the future goal of becoming a manager. My job responsibilities have increased from communicating with insurance companies and customers to gaining a variety of industry experience, from acquiring a more in-depth knowledge of the CCC One software and becoming fluent in Mitchell Connect, to learning to obtain and use OEM procedures pages and position statements, along with I-CAR’s RTS website.”

“I’ve gained so much more general awareness of shop chemistry, workflow and efficiency, and at the end of 2019, Bill Brown Ford was second in the entire country for sales,” Furman continued. “The volume or work and experience I’ve obtained at my current job is priceless. My future goal is to become a well-known body shop manager.”

In addition to working in shops, Furman has worked at WCC for the past eight years. He has been a teacher’s assistant, a co-teacher and finally a lead instructor. His classes include the fundamentals of estimating, CCC One navigation, and proper estimating practices. Furman hopes to “help recruit students in the industry and give them a place to get their feet wet.”

He added, “I’m excited for WCC as the Collision Repair and Refinish Technician certificate, by name, is being discontinued; instead, the main certificate program, Auto Body Repair, is being expanded to offer students the opportunity to earn an associate degree under Transportation Technologies. In addition to collision repair and refinishing skills, students will be able to take courses to gain skills in welding, composite repair, powder coating electives and automotive service, thus allowing students in automotive service repair and collision repair to work toward the same degree.”

Furman’s career successes have allowed him to provide for his family. “Being the lucky recipient of several CREF scholarships, as well as the PPG scholarship, has allowed me to quickly progress in my career and take care of my family comfortably. We have a nice roof over our heads, along with some toys. My wife and I just had our first child, and it’s wonderful knowing that we can breathe comfortably, knowing we have a solid financial foundation.

“I appreciate all the support I’ve received from CREF and everything the industry has done for me. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of where I started and who helped me achieve my goals.”

Industry members interested in supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, Director of Development, at 312-231-0258 or Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org.

The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at: www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please call 888-722-3787 or email info@ed-foundation.org.