RATHDRUM — Fender bender?
No problem. The next generation of the collision repair workforce will smooth it over for you.
"This is probably my favorite class I've ever had in school," said Coleton Kazmierczak, a Kootenai Technical Education Campus and Post Falls High School senior.
Coleton, an auto body collision repair student, showcased his refinishing finesse Friday during the Friendly SkillsUSA Scrimmage in the North Idaho College Parker Technical Education Center in Rathdrum.
"The competition is going pretty good," he said. "This whole week we’ve been reviewing."
He held up a bumper cover he worked on during one of the timed segments.
"They put a deep scratch in here an eighth of an inch deep," he said. "You have to sand it out and then fill it and then sand it again to make it all nice and smooth because this was all rough before."
Coleton and 33 other collision students from NIC, KTEC, Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston and NEWTECH Skill Center in Spokane worked against the clock take away medals and experience from the scrimmage.
They conducted paint refinishing and collision repairs and prepared written estimates to simulate the work they'll be doing in their field once they've completed their programs.
"They’re applying products that have a dry time," said NIC collision repair technology instructor Cal DeHaas. "If they don’t get the product on in a certain amount of time, then they won’t complete that exercise in that one-hour time slot. In order to complete the exercise, you have to learn which products go on first. You’re constantly thinking, ‘What has to go on next? What’s my next step?'"
This was the second time NIC hosted the scrimmage at the Parker campus, although the NIC and LCSC collision programs have been participating in annual skills scrimmages in Lewiston for about 10 years.
This was the first year the competition was open to high school students.
"It’s a lot of fun," Coleton said. "A lot of the older college kids actually helped us out a little bit because they’ve been here for a couple years."
DeHaas said inviting high-schoolers to participate in the event is a benefit for NIC's collision program, as well as the students themselves.
“There is such a great need for technicians," he said. "The younger we can expose them to this industry, the better."
Another benefit is the connections the students make with the scrimmage judges, many of whom are already professionals in the industry.
“(The students) are just phenomenal," said judge Don Gosney, general manager for Abra Auto Body and Glass, which is owned and operated by Knudtsen Chevrolet. "Cal has an unbelievable one-year program that blows the doors off of all of the other two-year programs."
Gosney said several of his employees went through the NIC or LCSC programs, and he has a few student apprentices who are a pleasure to work with.
"I love being involved in this,” he said. "I love to mentor, and watching these kids succeed and grow in this industry and seeing that there’s still a passion for it is really awesome."
The Friendly SkillsUSA Scrimmage served as a pre-qualifier for the Idaho State SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference in Nampa in early April. Students who do well at state will advance to the SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville in June.