Collision Repair Technology Teaching and Placing Autobody Repair Technicians of Tomorrow

Published: October 28, 2022

There is no such thing as a typical day when it comes to College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) Collision Repair Technology program.

“No two things are ever the same,” said Associate Professor, Sean McConnachie. “Autobody repair technicians can’t ever get complacent because they constantly dealing with different types of cars and wrecks.”

It is something McConnachie and Instructor, Torry McDowell, know firsthand. Combined they bring more than 50 years of experience working in the autobody repair industry to CWI.

“If you look out at our floor today, we have a Bentley, BMW, Chevy truck, a Honda, and more,” McConnachie said. “You just never know what you’re going to get. Every day is something new, and that is what attracts a lot of people to this career.”

The pair, along with Shop Assistant, Marty Hammett, work together to pass their knowledge to CWI Collision Repair Technology students.

Student welding during class They teach the art and science of painting and restoring cars and the understanding of new products and technology to perform high-quality work. This program starts with the basics and quickly moves into total collision repair — from assessing damage to complete reconditioning.

“You get to the point in your career where you want to share your experience with others,” said McDowell. “It is exciting watching students’ progress and perform skills confidently.”

Training students to become autobody repair technicians and begin working in local shops is a big need right now. According to a study performed by CCC Intelligent Solutions, they predict 100,000 auto technician job openings over the next 10 years due to “a wave of retiring baby boomers.”

“Across the nation, technicians are aging out of the industry,” said McConnachie. “It really is an employees’ market right now. If you're a skilled technician, you’ll never have trouble finding a job in this industry.” 

Fine tuning his techniques and skills at CWI is what second-year Collision Repair Technology student, Nolan Czapiewski, hopes to accomplish so he can fulfill one of those open positions.

“The equipment we have in the autobody shop is top of the line,” said Czapiewski. “It is incredible what we have to work with. From lifts to paint booths, even well-established autobody shops don’t always have those. You can only work with the tools you know, and to have such quality materials throughout our education sets us up for success.”

Czapiewski is also thankful for the connections his instructors bring. He feels confident that once he graduates from the program, McConnachie and McDowell will use their relationships with autobody repair shops to help him start his career.

Instructor, Torry McDowell “I am open to any opportunity,” Czapiewski said. “Our instructors know everybody in the Treasure Valley and beyond. Odds are if you’re willing to work for it, they’ll get you somewhere.”

McConnachie and McDowell work with more than 40 autobody repair shops around the Treasure Valley on a regular basis.

“It is one of the things I pride myself on,” McConnachie said. “While I can’t guarantee you a job, I am going to work hard and go out of my way to help you on your job search. We have partners beyond Idaho. I have a wide reach, like in Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and California. I will find you somewhere you’ll fit in.”

Collision Repair Technology is one of several programs’ students, future students, and members of the public have an opportunity to learn more about at CWI’s Program Exploration events. Those interested are invited to meet the program’s faculty and industry leaders, understand more about career, tour the autobody lab and classrooms, and get tips on how to prepare for a successful start.

Collision Repair Technology’s Program Exploration Event
Tuesday, Nov. 1
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Nampa Campus Micron Education Center (NMEC), Room 230

For those interested or have questions, contact CWI Assistant Dean of Industry, Engineering, and Trades, Alex Beal at 208.562.2413 or alexbeal@cwi.edu.

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