Nick Thuman could talk shop all day. “I've always liked working on cars since I was about 14 years old,” he said. The 39-year-old from Lancaster is a collision technician for Gabe’s Collision.
Techs like Thuman are hard to come by these days. That's according to just about any auto repair shop in western New York. “Theoretically, we could probably hire 10 to 15 more people,” said Gabe’s General Manager, Joe Mullen. “We even have a website: autobody.com to do nothing but recruit people,” added Ron Bolt with Carubba Collision.
A group of dealers and auto repair owners banned together several years back to form a partnership with Erie 1 BOCES collision repair program. Through the partnership, students are eligible for paid internships, and guaranteed a job interview post-graduation.
Since forming that partnership three years ago, Erie 1 BOCES has seen a boost in enrollment. “It’s not by huge leaps and bounds but a little at a time it's gaining,” said shop teacher, Bill Peffer. “Three years ago, we were down to four students who signed up for this program,” he said. Today, 17 are on track to graduate from the program.
Repair shops would like to see more do the same. While a majority of the positions start at an hourly rate, reps said it can become a six-figure income.