Joining us on this episode is Brent Jenkins, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, IN.
Lincoln Tech has 22 campuses located throughout the United States, and they have been educating tomorrow’s workforce since 1946. Lincoln Tech trains its students to enter the workforce in the automotive, skilled trades, health sciences, culinary, spa and cosmetology, and information technology career fields. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
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Bob Martin: Joining us today for this episode of Imagine America Radio is Brent Jenkins. Brent is the campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana. The topic of today’s episode of Imagine America Radio is collision repair careers. As a leading provider of education in collision repair, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk about it than Lincoln Tech and Brent Jenkins. Brent, welcome to the show.
Brent Jenkins: Thank you for having me.
Bob: We may call you Brent; is that all right?
Brent: Please do.
Bob: Now for the sake of our listeners, let’s start off today’s episode with you providing our audience with a very quick overview of what is involved in a career in collision repair.
Brent: Sure. Essentially, a collision repair technician rebuilds damaged vehicles—or they restore old vehicles—and that’s from nose to tail, from body to framework, painting and pinstriping. Anything that’s needed to repair damage that’s been caused to a vehicle or to restore an older vehicle that you want to bring back to life.
Lee Doubleday: Brent, this is Lee. I’m talking to Brent Jenkins, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis. So, tell me something. What does the career outlook look like for collision repair technicians, maybe both on a national level and then maybe a little more granular in Indiana alone?
Brent: Yeah. Great question. The collision repair technician field is a hot market right now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2028—in just the next eight years—it’s projected there’s going to be a need for 160,000 collision repair technicians across the country. Here in Indiana alone, the job growth for that field is expected to be just under 4,000 techs. It’s a lot of opportunities for somebody looking for a great career.
Lee: Wow, you’re right. That is a lot of opportunity in Indiana alone. That’s incredible. So, with collision repair technicians being in high demand, it seems like something worth getting an education in—so I have sort of a three-parted question.
Number one, should someone go to school to learn how to become a collision repair technician? Number two, what does a typical program include—is it refinishing, airbrushing, painting, etc.? And number three, how long is a typical collision repair program?
Brent: Great questions. Most experts would tell you someone should go to school to learn this craft. To get the right certifications, for learning the latest trends, for learning the latest technology—a great program is going to offer that to you. So really, to get a great program, you want that comprehensive skill set so that you can do a wide variety of the different aspects of collision repair. They should have classes for both structural and nonstructural repairs. There needs to be components for electrical and mechanical systems. Certainly, welding and fabrication. And of course, paint and refinishing techniques are absolutely essential. Our program does all of that. We go a little further: We also include a course with estimating an assessment.
Our program can be completed in approximately a year. Most of them are going to be somewhere in that range, give or take about a year. One other thing you really want to look for, which I’m very proud that our school offers, you want to look for a program where you can qualify to become an I-CAR–certified technician.
Lee: I-CAR–certified technician. Does that stand for something or can you elaborate a little bit more on what that is?
Brent: Yeah, sure. So the certified technician: I-CAR sets the national standards for excellence in collision repair. The folks at I-CAR have studied the field. They have established what is the minimum criteria that a school needs to meet to teach the proper techniques. And so if you go to a school, you want to make sure that you have chosen a school that is an accredited school, where you get certified.
Lee: I understand. So now, let’s say I’m a student who is interested in collision repair. When I tour a campus—whether it’s yours or any other campus across the United States—what are a few things that I should be looking for in a collision repair technician program in any one of these schools? Because it seems like a program like this is really going to require some updated equipment in order to stay relevant in current work environments. So, should the equipment that the school uses be something I should consider? And what else should I consider? I know you had mentioned accreditation, maybe even length of program, or instructor certifications—and then, more specifically, partnerships with employers. I know that’s a big deal.
Can you elaborate on what it is maybe that I should be looking for in a collision repair program at any given school?
Brent: Yeah. Sure, Lee. All great questions. A really good school should offer a good balance in both updated equipment and materials. Yet you also want to expose students to older equipment and materials, and even techniques that the graduates are going to see out on the field that have been used for many years. So, you want to find that type of balance.
As I mentioned earlier, you really want a comprehensive set of courses: the opportunity for both the structural work, the nonstructural work, an opportunity to get into a paint booth, and to learn how to both mix paint and how to apply those painting and refinishing techniques. You’ll want to look for a program that’s going to give you a diverse set of opportunities to learn on different types of vehicles, to learn on vehicles of different ages—those are also good things to look for from the equipment. Talking about accreditation, again, you do want to go to an accredited school. You want your diploma or degree to be recognized, should you choose to leave the area and the school that you went to is maybe not nationally known.
I-CAR, really, is the gold standard in the industry—that is, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair. So that’s a good one to look for. Instructor certifications, I say, I think, look for instructors that have that right balance in—they really need to have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Those guys that have been out in the field, the instructors that really have dedicated their life and years to learning proper techniques, proper safety, and how to repair a car the right way to do it.
And then, finally, when you’re looking at a good school, look for good partnerships. Look for schools that partner with employers and partner with vendors to offer the best opportunities for the students. This is something that I really have made sort of a hallmark at the Lincoln – Indy campus. Very proud of our partnerships. These are employers that will come in and offer a wide variety of enhancements to our students. We have some employer partners like Caliber Collision and Carvana and Tire Discounters that have gone so far as to donate equipment, donate materials like paint, remodeling the rooms, really investing into the educational piece.
We have employer partners that work with our career services department on the soft skills enhancements. It’s really important not only to have the technical skills and the repair skills but also to have the right soft skills: great customer service, a good approach when you’re working with the customer that’s coming in.
And then, finally (and most importantly), our partnerships result in employment opportunities for our graduates. At the end of the day, for this student that’s gone and invested this time and this energy and this finances into their education—knowing that you go to a school that has a lot of employers that go to that school to find their next person that they want to hire and bring on board is something still important. Lincoln Tech – Indy does that.
Bob: You’re listening to today’s conversation with Brent Jenkins, campus president, Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana. The topic of today’s episode of Imagine America Radio has been collision repair careers.
Brent, here are my three takeaways that I’ve got. My first takeaway that I get is collision repair careers offer a huge number of career opportunities of both the national and the regional or Indiana level. I believe you quoted the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 160,000 jobs nationally, with 4,000 of those jobs being available in the State of Indiana. Second, Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis is a leading nationally accredited school serving students studying for careers right now. You’ve got classes opening up right now.
Finally, I’m going to ask you if you don’t mind for you, Brent, to be serve as a liaison or at least answer any questions that may come up from our audience from this episode—either students, parents, guidance counselors—and encourage them to contact you. So, if you wouldn’t mind repeating, one more time, your email address, phone numbers, etc., please.
Brent: Absolutely. You can reach me at the campus if you call directly or if you email me. My direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And the campus phone number is (317) 632-5553. If you call that number, you’ll be transferred to either myself or any department that you need to speak with, and we would be more than happy to help. We’re still here to help everyone that is looking for an opportunity.
Bob: We want to thank today’s guest, Brent Jenkins, campus president, Lincoln Tech in Indianapolis, Indiana. We also want to thank our audience for taking time out of their very busy and often hectic schedules to listen to today’s episode of Imagine America Radio.
On behalf of my colleague, Lee Doubleday, and myself, please be safe and we’ll talk to you again very soon. Thank you and goodbye.