Prepping Students for Skilled Work
“At 18 years old, I wish I had the confidence and poise the SkillsUSA students have,” says Andy Crisler, State Farm® manager and voluntary judge for Ohio SkillsUSA. Andy and a handful of State Farm employees volunteer to judge portions of the Ohio SkillsUSA State Championships every year.
“Once you’ve been involved, you fall in love with it,” Andy says. He’s helped judge for seven years. Kenny Hall, State Farm employee, has been involved with Ohio SkillsUSA for 20 years and helps manage the collision repair and refinish programs.
“My first impression was ‘wow,’” he says. “Sometimes it’s hard to get people interested in volunteering, but a big percentage ask to be included the next year. They’re excited to see students interested in collision repair and refinishing. It’s a great way to give back and pay it forward.”
SkillsUSA is a national association serving middle school, high school and college students interested in careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. The program prepares students with the skills of the trade they’re interested in, but it also equips them with personal skills such as professionalism, work ethic and integrity, and workplace skills such as communication, decision making and teamwork.
“It’s a career path, a gateway for them to get involved in the industry and align to future job opportunities,” Andy says. “We work to place the ones who make it through the program in jobs.”
Both Andy and Kenny came to State Farm from the repair industry and are proud to share with students a successful career path.
Andy was an estimator and assistant shop foreman in a collision repair shop and worked as a detailer, assistant service advisor and used car salesperson at a dealership before making the move to State Farm.
Kenny began his career in a collision body shop, working his way up before accepting an opportunity with State Farm to be an estimator. He still spends a lot of time at body shops inspecting and auditing the work.
“We have the same background as the students. It’s one of those proud moments to be in that environment again to give back to the kids,” Andy says.
Within the collision repair and refinish contest, students are tasked with repairing a dented fender or refinishing the side of car with welding, painting and masking work.
“It makes the students well-rounded for entry-level jobs in the industry,” Kenny says. “Being involved in SkillsUSA gives them a better look at the real world. They interview, take industry tests, provide estimates for the damage and do the refinish or repair work.
“Most of the students appear to have initiative and are self-starters,” Kenny adds of the SkillsUSA students. “I think those who get to that level have a love for the collision or refinishing side. If you really like doing that, you have a good work ethic and initiative, all of that makes them more employable.”