Hoffman Estates, Ill. (February 5, 2024) –

Collision repair is an intriguing field to pursue, yet schools often struggle to attract and retain students in their collision programs, not because there’s a lack of interest but typically due to a lack of access to funding which prevents instructors from purchasing the updated tools, equipment and supplies needed to effectively educate the next generation of collision professionals. Applying for – and receiving – Benchmark Grants through the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) has been a game-changer for many schools around the country, including Contra Costa College in San Pablo, CA. (Applications are now open at bit.ly/CREFapply!)

“Over the years, even going back to 2008 when I was a student, we’ve applied for CREF’s Benchmark Grants and received a ton of support every year,” shares Laura Lozano, Professor of Collision Repair Technology and Automotive Department Co-Chair at Contra Costa College. “The biggest grant we received was $50,000, which was amazing, but all of the awards we have received have gone toward purchasing new equipment and tools, whether that’s been to replace older equipment or to keep up with advancing technology. As a result, students get to learn and practice with newer tools and equipment, and that has been super helpful when it comes to keeping them engaged in the program.”

The funds from CREF allow Contra Costa to combat the restrictions of a limited budget and improve its ability to educate students in a variety of ways. “Whether we’re replacing something that has broken, updating equipment or adding something we don’t yet have, the grants from CREF is a great way to get what we need to teach the latest information that students will need when they go to work in shops,” Lozano explains. “Sometimes, we simply need more of a certain tool so that we don’t have 25 (or more) students sharing the same item; having multiples makes it much easier and more effective to embed certain processes into the curriculum.

“It also provides students with a chance to get more hands-on experience,” she adds. “Receiving financial support through CREF’s Benchmark Grants means being able to create lab activities for individual students instead of working in pairs – or on larger group projects – because they have to share. That can be a huge barrier when you’re working with the attention span of students; they need to be engaged the entire time with something to do, and having the right quantity of tools to keep them focused on what they’re learning is a huge part of their student experience. Whether students feel like they’re engaged and truly learning something often becomes a make-it-or-break-it moment. If they are not engaged, they could easily decide the program is not worth their time and move onto a different field of study.”

Although the application for the Benchmark Grants is very comprehensive, Lozano sees that as another opportunity that a lot of instructors may be missing out on. “Yes, it’s more paperwork, but it’s also an opportunity to answer the call of the industry’s desire to help out and volunteer. We see it a way to engage our advisory committee to be part of the process. They want to be more involved, so each year, we have a meeting where we fill out CREF’s application. They give us advice on what tools and equipment we should be requesting, and seeing how their involvement directly benefits our program sems to really inspire more active participation throughout the rest of the year too. It’s a positive outcome all around.”

Applications for CREF’s 2024 Collision School Career Readiness Benchmark Grants open January 26 with a deadline of June 28, 2024. Completing CREF’s online application will qualify collision schools to receive up to $25,000 in funding.

In 2023, the industry’s generous support enabled CREF to award $678,500 in Benchmark Grants to over 100 collision schools. Additionally, the Foundation distributed over $10 million worth of in-kind donations, including parts, products, quarter panels, subscriptions, safety equipment and more. The Benchmark Grants recognize those programs that excel at educating students but which require additional financial assistance due to constrained school budgets, providing funds to purchase the tools, equipment and supplies necessary to enhance their students’ learning experience and elevate the caliber of their graduates.

Since 2009, CREF has facilitated the industry’s generosity to provide collision repair educational programs with cash and in-kind donations. Learn how to direct a monetary or in-kind donation to a specific school in your market area by clicking here. Visit us on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube to explore testimonials about how your support impacts the educational programs as well as the students.

CREF’s Collision School Career Readiness Benchmark Grants recognize schools that excel at educating students in collision repair, but due to strained school budgets, the programs require additional financial assistance. Recipient schools use these funds to provide the tools, equipment and supplies necessary to enhance their students’ learning experience and elevate the caliber of their graduates, ensuring that graduates are prepared to successfully enter the workforce upon graduation. The Benchmark Grant application allows instructors to request specific items that are needed to help them advance their curriculum, and applying schools that are not selected for grant funds are still eligible to receive a variety of tools, equipment and supplies donated by industry sponsors and supporters.

Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs can Contact Us to learn about the many ways to get involved. Monetary donations can be made online.

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.CollisionRepairEducationFoundation.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic or any of CREF’s initiatives, please email info@ed-foundation.org.

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