Collision repair program at NCC aims to fill the labor gaps

While a strong economy means Granite Staters are finding work, it doesn’t mean applicant skills evenly match with market demands. Many of the trades continue to find themselves with an aging workforce and a shortage of candidates with the right skills.

Community colleges and industry leaders work together year round to address labor gaps as they arise. Individual college programs have advisory boards to keep that relationship strong, and to ensure students are well prepared to be future employees. Collision Repair Technology is an excellent example, with its team of nearly 20 advisory board members from across the auto body industry.

“We work closely with independent and dealership body shops in the area,” said Karl Wunderlich, program coordinator and professor in the collision repair program. “I had my own shop for 10 years, and I know the people and suppliers in the industry, and I think that helps make relationships here. A lot of the shops we work with hire our graduates, and some are run by our graduates.”

Alumni often return to the program for employees, confident in the integrity of their education.

Members of the New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association serve on the collision repair technology board, and Wunderlich, in turn, has served on their New Hampshire Automotive Education Foundation, for the past 10 years. NHADA helps connect high schools with college programs, and provides generous scholarship support for students preparing to enter the industry.

“There is a great need for technicians and not enough people coming into it. We need to get more people into the industry, not just here in New Hampshire, but nationwide,” Wunderlich said.

The collaboration of NHADA, advisory board members, and NCC begin a pathway at the high school level that ends with a lucrative career in the industry.

“There’s a lot of opportunity. It’s not just working on new cars – it is working on new cars, old cars, insurance work, working with paint companies – there’s a lot of opportunity,” he added.

Launched in 1978, collision repair is one of the longest-running degree programs at NCC, and it continues to evolve as the market evolves. Just last year, collision launched its first certificate program which can be completed in one-year, or rolled into the associate degree program for its second year.

Wunderlich has been with NCC for 23 years now, and was a graduate of the collision repair program himself in 1982, along with fellow collision professor Randy Biggs. He also leads the entire industry and transportation department at NCC, overseeing the automotive, Honda PACT, and aviation technology as well as collision repair technology.

Learn more about collision repair technology at nashuacc.edu or visit the next Open House on campus March 28 from 5-7 p.m.

Lucille Jordan is president of Nashua Community College, located at 505 Amherst St., Nashua.

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