Tomorrow’s Collision Professionals Learn on Today’s Repair Planning Software Thanks to Donations from Audatex, CCC and Mitchell Through CREF

Hoffman Estates, Ill. (April 15, 2024) –

Would any shop owner be impressed by a young estimator who demonstrated their knowledge by pulling out a clipboard, paper and pen as they began inspecting a damaged vehicle? Probably not – with today’s complex vehicles, most shops utilize modern estimating software, and a new hire who isn’t familiar with electronic repair planning will need a lot of additional training. It makes sense that collision professionals expect students to graduate with a basic understanding of modern estimating tools and techniques, but software costs money, which is a resource that many collision repair education programs find themselves lacking.

Fortunately, thousands of collision repair students across the country receive the opportunity to learn on the same software widely used by the collision repair facilities and insurance carriers where they will be working in the future – at no cost to the school or students – thanks to the generosity of Audatex, a Solera Company; CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. (CCC); and Mitchell, an Enlyte company, who all partner with the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) to support secondary and post-secondary students by donating software subscriptions. Having access to the software they’ll be using in the field allows students to gain confidence in their chosen career path, and it ensures they become more effective team members as soon as they begin working.

“Learning on the same estimating software that shops use allows for an easier transition to the shop because students are familiar with it,” explains Raven Hartkopf, Collision Technology Instructor at Collin College (Allen, TX). “In addition, students are more prepared to read and interpret estimates, so they have more value coming in as an entry-level technician. One final benefit for students is the awareness of estimating positions; students may find a career path they want to pursue.

“Students need access to what they may use in a shop, so we must constantly maintain our tools, equipment, and software to reflect what shops are doing,” she adds. “If we do not stay up to date, we are obsolete and irrelevant. There’s no sense in training on old equipment that has been phased out of shops. It does neither the students nor the industry any favors.”

Matthew Ciaschini, co-owner of Full Tilt Auto Body & Collision Inc. (Hatfield, MA) agrees: “Hiring young people who are passionate about this industry is so important, but it can create production challenges in the shop when they’re unfamiliar with the software and equipment we use. It’s completely understandable; we all make mistakes when we’re learning something new, but giving students access to the same software we use allows them to make those inevitable mistakes in a classroom setting, making them much more useful employees from the day they’re hired.”

In 2023 alone, over 10,000 future collision repair professionals had the opportunity to learn on current estimating software, thanks to these donations which were distributed to 561 schools in 48 states across the country.

“Giving students the ability to learn on current technology is vital; young people who have access to the most recent equipment and techniques tend to be more successful when they join the workforce,” shares CREF Director of Operations and Impact Melissa Marscin. “Unfortunately, budgetary constraints often prevent collision schools from being able to purchase the latest programs and technologies to use in their classrooms without the industry’s support. The free subscriptions received from Audatex, CCC and Mitchell allow these schools to teach their students on the same program that they’re likely to encounter after graduation, and the Foundation is very grateful to these providers for their ongoing generosity as their donations allow us to continue providing the next generation of technicians, estimators and suppliers with this invaluable opportunity.”

“Empowering students with the tools and knowledge they need within the industry is key for their success,” shares Tony Graham, Executive Vice President, North America, Solera. “Through this donation, we’re able to continue our 16-plus years of support for the future generations of automotive leaders in the collision repair industry – a source of pride for us at Solera.”

Audatex’s generous software donations are part of the company’s collaboration with the Foundation on the Audatex Educational Institutions Program, which also provides eligible schools with access to online courses and training, a custom curriculum that includes CEUs, I-CAR points and technical support. This partnership has provided Audatex estimating software to over 300 schools’ collision repair programs, a number that increases each year. In 2023 alone, 47 schools in 26 states received Audatex software. To qualify for the Audatex Educational Institutions Program, technical schools in the United States and Canada offering a collision repair program must complete the Educational Institutions Program contact form found at Audatex.us.

“With the demand for collision repairers on the rise and vehicles becoming more complex, it’s crucial to set up the next generation of repairers for success with the right technical skills and education,” said Andreas Hecht, Senior Vice President, Mobility, CCC Intelligent Solutions. “At CCC, we’re committed to helping the industry tackle its most pressing challenges. We’re proud of our ongoing work with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to help nurture students, ensuring they have the tools, technology and materials they need at just the right moments.”

CCC is a founding member of CREF and has helped tens of thousands of students from more than 500 schools through its generous donation of software, onsite and virtual training, and world-class technical support services, delivered at no cost to the students or schools. Last year, 419 schools in 47 states received free CCC ONE Estimating software. The company also grants access to its leading solution to connect repairers to automaker repair procedures and its mobile estimating solution, which allows estimates to be written right at the car.

“As an industry, we must work together to solve the current labor shortage and encourage a new generation of skilled workers to enter the collision repair trade,” said Jack Rozint, senior vice president of repair sales at Mitchell. “Through our technology donation and support of CREF, students across the country now have hands-on access to many of the advanced solutions used by collision facilities to restore vehicles to pre-accident condition, including those automobiles with computer networks more complex than an F-16 fighter jet.”

In 2023, Mitchell provided students at more than 200 participating schools in 42 states with free access to its estimating software, Mitchell Cloud Estimating. The software works seamlessly with the company’s cloud-based product suite and integrated solutions for diagnostic scanning and ADAS calibrations. This gives future collision repairers essential training on technologies used in the field to help improve efficiency and support proper and safe repairs.

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.

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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.

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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