That image up there? It’s a before and after and it’s a pretty clear example of the great work being done by the Collision Repair Education Foundation. The goal of this 501c3 charity is to support high school and college-level collision and auto-body programs. This means the students, instructors, and the very facilities in which they operate. In total, this amounts to 1,000 programs and around 40,000 students spread across high school shop classes, tech schools, and community colleges that offer such programs. And they need support, which is what the CREF is excellent at providing. These have long been viewed as the sort of thing you send “the bad kid” down to when he or she is in trouble, but what this really leads to is a path to a strong career in an industry that needs bodies.
I chatted with CREF Director of Development Brand Eckenrode to learn more about what his organization does. With a full-time staff of just four folks, the CREF donates 90 cents out of every dollar back to schools. They then work with companies in the industry to help turn programs into truly wonderful places for learning. Cintas, for example, can provide proper uniforms while Rust-Oleum can transform the shop area into a top-tier facility. The end result is that the students learn how to do their jobs the right way, in a safe environment, with the right tools. And on down the line, this means cars will be repaired properly by someone who cares about what they’re doing.
The CREF knows that not everyone needs or wants to go the four-year college route. You can rack up serious debt, not fully understand what you want to do, and exit on the other side owning money with no job prospect. That’s not everyone’s experience, of course, but it’s a highly possible one. For someone eager to learn a trade though, the debt prospect is significantly lower and the ability to earn income sooner is a reality. It can absolutely be a win and the CREF helps make sure it’s possible.
The foundation has been in business since 1991 and currently enjoys a 4-star rating (out of 4) per Charity Navigator. This is an important program for all of us. It’s important for those who want to follow this path to have the proper tools to do so. And it’s important for anyone with a vehicle because if you ever have non-mechanical damage done to it you want to be confident it’s going to be repaired correctly. I believe the CREF is a big part of making that happen. And I want to learn more about this organization and find ways to work with them moving forward. Keep an eye out for that, but in the meantime, if you have the means they could always use support. Click here to head to their website.