Baton Rouge Community College's Automotive Collision Training Center is ready to prepare students for careers in auto body repair and vehicle painting.
BRCC officials held a ceremony Wednesday to mark the opening of the nearly 26,000-square-foot facility. It includes shop space with paint booths, automotive lifts, a car straightener and welding booths. There are two classrooms large enough to drive vehicles in, so students can get demonstrations on repairs and estimating damage.
"We're actually teaching them real-world scenarios," said Jayson Purdy, program coordinator for the BRCC Automotive Technology department.
Courses will start in the collision training center in the spring. At first, the classes aimed at getting people in the workforce will focus on non-structural damage and painting, Purdy said. Plans are in the work to add damage estimating training down the road.
The collision training center will operate along with the Automotive Technology Center at BRCC, which has been taking in students for about a year and a half.
Before the auto collision training center opened, people who wanted to work in the industry had to get training from local body shops and manufacturers or go to Houston, said Wayne Knight, collision manager at BRCC.
Knight said there is a demand for workers in local auto body shops. “If there are 200 body shops in Baton Rouge, probably 180 of them are looking for technicians,” he said.
Entry-level wages for auto body technicians start between $16 and $18 an hour. After five years, a good technician can make $100,000 a year, Knight said.