The buzzing of hand saws, drills and chatter can be heard at the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology Center where the North Carolina National Guard and Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) worked together recently to host the 2016 FTCC Draft Day.
Draft Day is a two-day event where students enrolled in the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology associate’s degree program culminate their talents in an exhibition for perspective employers.
“I feel like I am part of something greater,” said former NCNG Spc. Lonnie Brown, a welder who was assigned to Bravo Company, 690th Brigade Support Battalion, who was recently hired by Caliber Collision.
“It’s a big benefit for kids that don’t know what they want to do and show an interest in vehicles. It takes you from what you dream about to basically getting what you want.”
FTCC’s program allows service members to use their military skills and training as college credits toward their degree. Gage teamed up with Senior Vice President Dr. David Brand, who is retired military, to coordinate what military training was compatible with the program.
The program is set up to expose students to the Inter-Industry Conference on Automotive Collision Repair curriculum mirroring the head training organization for collision repair. Students also receive real world certifications, and training in all aspects of the industry empowering them to gain better job opportunities and an edge against the competition.
An open floor with different work stations reflecting various aspects of the automotive industry are set up for students to demonstrate their skills. Employers from different automotive companies walk around gauging each student’s skills allowing for a huge networking opportunity for students and employers.
“I have been able to meet so many people in the industry,” said Pfc. Tia Early, a chemical operations specialist asssigned to Bravo Company, 690th Brigade Support Battalion. “I have had so many connections with people. I have been able to travel since I have been in this program. I feel like I have a great career ahead of me.”
The program’s inception began when Paul Gage, director of transportation services technologies at FTCC, realized there were things missing. Gage said the inspiration for the instruction of the course came from the evolution of technology in late model cars.
“Draft day was conceived about two years ago, when I actually built this program,” said Gage. “I was working for Nationwide Insurance. I don’t come from education; I come from the industry, 26 years in the automotive industry. I sat down and looked at what are all the schools out there doing that are not working. We are trying to build something that will get people jobs.”
Gage and a hand full of others started from scratch, working out of textbooks in a classroom, because of limited resources at the time.
Program coordinator James Jones said that he and Paul put 14-hour days when it first began. “We started when this program had nothing,” said, NCNG Sgt. Quintin Patterson, a chemical operations sergeant assigned to the 105th Engineer Battalion, who was recently hired by Gerber Glass. “The building was still in construction when we started. Seeing how fast and how much this school has grown is definitely something I take pride in.”
“They train us for everything,” said Brown. “When we finish we can probably go into any role in the automotive industry. It’s a really good program. I have learned so much.”
It was also important that this program be applicable to all Army components. Brown, Early and Patterson helped mold what the program should entail for students, while Maj. Neely Mahoney, a NCNG state strategic plans officer, worked together with Gage and representatives of the active Army component, ensuring the program succeeds across the board.
“We aim to leverage some best practices from programs like this, said Chief Warrant four Calvin Cohen, the credentialing officer assigned to the Combined Arms Support Command. “We are amazed at the turn out. This is exactly the type of results that we are looking for as we try to model something to bring to Fort Lee.”
Students, Guard and civilian alike, are furnished with five different certifications, guaranteed job placement, stability, training in cosmetic repairs, welding techniques, structural repair, refinishing techniques and other automotive training closing the current skills gap between employees and employers.
“Everything about this program is geared toward somebody becoming successful in a career not just looking for a job,” said Early. “They have so many things set up for us to meet the automotive industry prior to us graduating that no one should have to wonder whether or not they are going to be able to work.”
Leticia Samuels is with the North Carolina Army National Guard