State Tech Automotive Collision Technology program continues to bang out quality education

By Edward Gehlert, Staff Writer
Posted 11/18/21

State Technical College of Missouri has a long history of providing the best education for trade students in the state, and that tradition continues with this year’s classes in the Automotive …

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State Tech Automotive Collision Technology program continues to bang out quality education

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State Technical College of Missouri has a long history of providing the best education for trade students in the state, and that tradition continues with this year’s classes in the Automotive Collision Technology program, which prepares students to pursue opportunities in many related careers, including auto-body repair, automotive painting, and collision damage estimating. 

The Automotive Collision Technology program is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE). Enrollment is limited and students are selected for this program on a competitive basis.

Auto Collision Instructor Christian Record teaches first and second-year students at the college and enjoys the small class sizes. Record praises this as an aspect that allows him to give more personalized attention to his students as well as being able to get to know more about them.

“This year I have 18 students in my first-year class and 17 in my second-year class,” said Record. “Usually, the students are more from mid-Missouri, but this year most of them are either from way up north or way down south.”

These class sizes are perfect for the kind of hands-on and interactive education that the college is known for to keep students involved in every aspect of the learning process. This instruction also includes specific points to cover depending on the student’s class year.

First year students in the class have been studying various forms of plastics and the process involved in repairing damage to the material; including adhesives and plastic welding methods. Second year students are currently learning preparation and welding techniques for metal and how to pull out damage in various locations on vehicles.

Cameron Bradley-Day is a first-year student from Shelbyville. Originally interested in mechanical engine work, Bradley-Day decided to take advantage of the Automotive Collision Technology program after visiting the school and hopes to one day work in a dealership or at a larger auto body shop.

“I never knew anything about bodywork,” he said. “It just always intrigued me and in seeing how Christian (Record) was here with the class and everything, how great of a teacher he was, it just really inspired me to want to come here and learn that part of the industry. That way I can know a little bit of everything. It’s pretty awesome here. We like to have a lot of fun in the class, but be safe at the same time.”

Robert Clack is a first-year student from Jefferson City who studied automotive technology at Nichols Career Center and joined the program at State Tech because of the college’s reputation.

“(State Tech) has a good name and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Clark. “Eventually I want to go into restoration. I’d like to work at Xtreme Body and Paint in Jeff City and eventually move on and open my own shop.” 

First-year student John Donley of Ashland also attended Nichols Career Center where he studied auto collision. He is enjoying the experience at State Tech and is pleased with the instruction he is receiving. 

“I do really like this program,” Donley said. “It is teaching me a lot more than my vo-tech school did. It’s helping me get a better understanding of my career.”

Brad Toso, a first-year student from St Louis, learned about State Tech from a friend who wanted to attend the college. Before enrolling, Toso had no experience with automotive work of any kind and admitted that the job placement rate was a selling point for him.

“Originally it was one of my friends that brought the school to my attention,” he said. “He was looking at the heavy equipment operations program. Once I started looking into it and everything, I came down here for a tour. They really seemed to be into making sure that we actually learned everything we needed to learn to succeed in the field. Their high rate of job placement was a big deal to me.” 

Not all first-year students are right out of high school. Evan Long, a self-professed late bloomer, is 29 years old and originally from Lancaster, Ohio. Long was trying to decide what he wanted to do for a career. It was a toss-up between working with computers and vehicles.

“This past year I started thinking about what I wanted to do,” he said. “I used to think I wanted to go into computer work, but then I started thinking I have a car that needs its own work. Then I started branching off, thinking when I was little I had an interest in truck pulls. I realized my interest in vehicles went back further than my interest in computers. I was going to do automotive mechanics first and then do this as a third year, but I didn’t get in soon enough. I’m glad either way that I’m here learning how to work on vehicles.”

Being older than the rest of the class hasn’t caused any issues for Long and he says he is accepted among the class.

“I feel like I’m accepted better than what I was back in high school,” Long said. “I’m not really off-put by anybody and nobody seems off-put by me. It’s a lot better experience than any previous schools for me.”

Jefferson City native and Army veteran, Grant Watson is the second oldest person in class at 24. “I feel a little younger at heart,” Watson said. “A lot of them tell me you don’t act like you’re 24. I knew nothing about auto collision before coming here. I think Christian is doing a really good job. He is a really good instructor and he ensures that we know what we’re doing. I think he genuinely cares.” 

Watson also had some advice for people who are considering attending State Tech.

“Be prepared to work and take it seriously,” he said. “From somebody who’s been out in the world and had to live on their own, take your education seriously.”

The Automotive Collision Technology program is also taken advantage of by women who are interested in an automotive career.

Kelsey Hagenhoff is a first-year student who grew up in Jefferson City but attended high school in Eugene. Hagenhoff attended two years at Eldon Career Center where she studied auto tech. She joined the program at State Tech to expand her overall knowledge of vehicles.

“I wanted to know multiple aspects of cars and get good at them so I could fully rebuild a car,” Hagenhoff said. “I didn’t know there was a collision program here until I toured the school. Originally, I was going to do mechanics. I saw this and I was like that seems pretty fun so I went and did it.”

First-year student Shiann Goon hails from Moberly.

“I wanted to be in the mechanics class, but it was full so I went into auto-body and fell in love with it,” she said. “This is a really good program. The teacher really cares about the students and he does a lot to better our experience here. Whatever you put into the program he gives back to you. If you just stand around and don’t do anything then he’s not going to care about how you do. You have to give him what you want out of the program.”

In a class and career that is predominately male, Hagenhoff and Goon face some challenges that women everywhere can relate to. 

“It’s a lot harder for us to (do) stuff that would be easier for a man to do, like remove tight-fitting stuff,” said Goon. “Something else that makes it hard is (men) don’t listen. You could suggest something and they’ll just completely do the opposite, but you know you’re right. Then they mess it up and you’re like, ‘I told you so.’”

“I’ve worked in a parts store and it’s like she said, they don’t listen,” Hagenhoff added. “You just try to make things easier and they just ignore you.”

“Showing them that females can actually do this is stuff …,” Goon said. “Everyone thinks that just because you’re a female you should go into nursing or dental but it doesn’t have to be like that. That’s what’s most rewarding to me.”

“Proving everyone wrong is rewarding,” Hagenhoff agreed.

Goon and Hagenhoff feel like they have been accepted in the class by most of their peers and agree that Record treats them the same as the other students.

“By most of them I feel like I have been accepted,” said Goon. “I feel like the teacher kind of likes us a little bit more because we actually pay attention and do what he says.”

“I think the teacher pushes us more too,” said Hagenhoff. “In a good way.”

“Because he knows we’re capable of more than some men … I mean boys,” Goon joked.

Second-year students in the Automotive Collision Technology program are working towards an Associate of Applied Science degree. 

Zac Armstrong of Wardsville is a second-year student of the program who also went to Nichols Career Center for bodywork. 

“I started working in bodywork right after graduation,” said Armstrong. “My senior year, I ended up painting a truck and selling it. That’s kind of how it all started for me. I want to have my own business, my own shop. I want to work for a reputable shop first so I see what it’s like. I want to get into the best shop I can that’s in Jefferson City and learn as much as I can over the next five years and hopefully in the next 10, start working on my own.”

Armstrong has been impressed with the schooling he has received at State Tech and has high praise for the faculty.

“You can not compare this to a single other program out there,” he said. “Christian does such an amazing job with getting you involved and keeping you driven. He is such a driven individual that the way he works makes you want to work just as hard and he doesn’t make it school. I don’t wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, and think ‘God, I have to go to Christian’s class.’ Christian does an amazing job.”

Armstrong continued his praise of State Tech by pointing out how their job placement is so impressive.

“We get the opportunity to be placed (while) in school. People come here to fish for us,” said Armstrong. “You have the opportunity to walk around in a nice shirt and hand them your resume and they give you a call when you graduate. Boom, there’s your career; it started right there.”

Westphalia native Jaden Hoskins, a second-year student, attended Nichols Career Center for auto-body and decided to continue his education at State Tech.

“I figured I’d stick with it and decided to come here,” said Hoskins. “It would be really awesome if I could go somewhere after this and work on restorations.

Hoskins also had praise for faculty and the school’s job placement.

“The teachers want you to do good,” said Hoskins. “The job placement after everyone graduates is really cool to see. They care about what happens to the students after they leave.”

Richard Eppel, a second-year student from St. Louis, credits a former school counselor for bringing State Tech to his attention.

“There was this counselor, she came in for like one year, but there were all these other people going to Mizzou and other colleges and I wasn’t really interested in anything,” he said. “This lady came up to me and she was trying to help me find a college to pick. I told her I like to work with my hands and she instantly recommended this place. I didn’t even tour this place, I just knew I wanted to do it; it was perfect.”

Eppel admits that he had no prior knowledge of any automotive work in his life before he came to State Tech.

“Honestly, my whole knowledge around cars and automotive was none,” he said. “Now, I’d like to work somewhere close to home. I want to work on older stuff. I love the new stuff. I love all the new technology but there’s just something about going back to the roots on what made cars the really big thing they are.”

Eppel credits the school’s hands-on instruction for his positive experience during the program.

“I love learning practical knowledge I’m going to use,” said Eppel. “All through high school, all through grade school, you learn all this stuff but we never got to go apply it. Coming here and learning about stuff and actually being able to use it ... and taking it home and practicing it on my vehicles at home or out in the shop really makes a big difference and has kept me interested.”

All of the students in the Automotive Collision Technology program, whether in their first or second year, had positive feedback on the dedication Record has to his students, and their comprehension of the course materials he was teaching. 

Many in the second-year program specifically cited that Record was a primary reason they chose to continue attending State Tech.

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