This fall, the Montana Collision Repair Association (MCRA) announced its partnership with the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) to support the state’s only collision repair training program at Montana State University (MSU) – Billings City College.
MCRA President Paul Flores stated, “The MSU-Billings Collision Program is the only post-secondary automobile collision repair and refinishing program available in the state of Montana. The collision repair industry is in a unique era of growth, consolidation, and advancement in technology. At the same time, the industries talent pool lacks the volume to support the extensive personnel needs of collision repair facilities.”
MCRA offers its support of MSU-Billings’ auto collision repair and refinishing program through an endowment program that grants scholarships to students pursuing a career in the collision repair industry.
“MCRA believes it is important to find diverse ways to provide support for industry programs like the one provided by MSU-Billings,” Flores explained. “Support is provided through the endowment, but also through efforts to bring attention to the multitude of career opportunities that exist in the collision repair industry. By attending job/career fairs and working with Montana high schools, we can bring positive attention to the automobile collision repair and refinishing program at MSU-Billings.”
The association has also hosted fundraisers in support of the school’s collision repair training program in addition to participating in and donating to fundraising events held by the administrators of the program. At a Board meeting earlier this year, MCRA Vice President Matthew McDonnell pointed out all of CREF’s great efforts around the country, and the Board voted to team up with CREF to grow resources and financial support for the MSU-Billings program.
“CREF has provided tremendous support through its outreach abilities and by bringing corporate sponsorships to the MSU-Billings Program to provide much-needed facility improvements and financial contributions,” Flores said.
In the September release announcing the partnership, Brandon Eckenrode, director of development for CREF, said, “Through the generous support of sponsors and the local collision industry we hope to help MSU-Billings students receive the education they need to succeed in the collision industry.”
“When I took over the program, most of the tools were in need of repair, replacement, or were obsolete,” MSU-Billings collision instructor Steven Wodrich said in the statement. “It has been a struggle to get all the tools I have needed to make my program current. I have worked very hard at finding donations and grants and have been able to update many of our tools but still have a long way to go to be completely current.”
Through their partnership, MCRA and CREF hope to raise funds to provide the school and its students with hand tools, aluminum repair tools and equipment, a new frame rack, epoxied program floors, student work uniforms, and student scholarships.
The collision repair industry is constantly seeking qualified talent to meet business needs, and CREF’s mission aligns with that of many industry associations by striving to help provide “qualified, properly trained, and immediately productive entry-level employees to meet current and future industry needs,” an endeavor that benefits all collision repair industry professionals across the country.
“MCRA is proud to team with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to enhance the future of collision repairers in the state of Montana. Programs such as this are a lifeline to the repairers, schools, trainers, and students supporting the collision repair industry,” Flores said in the September statement.
Moving forward, Flores anticipates that the MCRA Endowment “will continue to grow and be a self-sustaining resource to provide continued support to students seeking opportunities in the collision repair industry through MSU-Billings. MCRA will continue to support the efforts of the automobile collision repair and refinishing program at MSU-Billings by collaborating with them and organizations such as CREF to provide resources, outreach and financial support. Our hope is that more programs open up, especially at the high school level, and when they do, MCRA will be there to partner with those programs in a support role.”