MARCH 28, 2008


Auto collision repair students taking skills across state

Photo of OSU-Okmulgee Automotive Collision Program interns.
OSU-Okmulgee automotive collision program interns (top row, left to right): Cody Cusick, Cody Knipe, Kirk Grantham, Russell Mills, Bryan Merritt, Ross Ragland, Terry Carter, Jarred Mayfield, Brad Drake, Carlos Rico, Aaron Younger, Ryan Hamilton, Chester Haywood and Cutter Cunningham. Interns (bottom row, sitting, left to right): Brent Ratliff, Shelby Reeve, Austin Woodliff, Chris Chitwood, Jessica Nester, Josh Lytle, Aaron Hamilton and Michael Moore.

For the next eight weeks, the “classroom” will move from campus lab to a working shop for 22 interns in OSU-Okmulgee’s Automotive Collision Repair Technology program. The students, who will be graduating at the end of summer, will be practicing what they’ve learned in school at a variety of collision repair shops across the state.

The program requires three eight-week internships prior to graduation. According to program chair Mike Avant, the regimen of alternating education with real-life, on- the-job experience, helps both the students and the program in many ways.

“It’s reassuring to know that every one of our interns will have a job when they graduate,” says Avant. “These young men and women are going out to intern in repair shops that intend to hire them after they graduate. Plus, they receive a salary while they are there. They will work a total of 24 weeks as interns and should make enough money to pay tuition, fees and probably cover some extra tools.”

Avant notes that major tool manufacturers such as MAC Tools, Snap-on, Matco Tools and NAPA offer students tools at half price while they are enrolled.

“The students get an excellent price on tools while they are here,” says Avant. “When they go to their internship, they take along a toolbox loaded with quality tools. They can do the work required of them without having to borrow tools from shop employees.”

For the past six weeks, some of these students have participated in the repair and refurbishing of a Ford Mustang, a special project this group is undertaking. The damaged Mustang, donated by State Farm Insurance, will get a glossy OSU orange and black paint job as the finishing touch. The project is online at and periodic video progress reports are being posted to the site.

“Our program is unique because we have faculty who specialize in different areas of collision repair technology,” says Avant. “One focuses on structural, another on non-structural and the other on refinishing. This allows us to teach students at a higher level and helps them reach their potential upon completion of the program.”

The students currently on internship will graduate in August. According to Avant, they will be employed full-time the next day.

“Because we offer a well-rounded education, these students will have a lot of upward mobility,” said Avant. “For example, the management courses we teach help the students get a good overview of the collision repair business and positions them for a wide variety of opportunities within the industry.”

Collision repair shops augment the educational experience by providing mentors for each intern. Usually, only one intern is placed in a shop, and OSU-Okmulgee faculty make regular visits.

“The interns are placed with quality technicians,” says Avant. “The shop manager oversees their progress and evaluates them on a weekly basis. The instructors maintain contact through personal visits throughout the internship. We want to nurture them and move them to the next level. One intern has a mentor who earns over $100,000 a year – that’s quite motivating!”

When the students return to campus, they will be debriefed in class and share what they’ve learned about new tools and techniques.

“We have made a lot of changes here based on students’ feedback, because they know what is happening out there,” says Avant. “This kind of interaction keeps us all current and helps us maintain a very high quality of instruction.”

Students currently on internship are:

Terry Carter from Holdenville - Fletcher Paint & Body Shop, Holdenville;
Chris Chitwood from Atoka -- Beck Collision Repair, Atoka;
Cutter Cunningham from Broken Bow -- The Collision Center, Owasso;
Cody Cusick from Ponca City -- Body Works Inc., Oklahoma City;
Brad Drake from Glencoe -- Karrol Martin Paint & Body Shop, Tulsa;
Kirk Grantham from Broken Bow -- Idabel Collision Center, Idabel;
Aaron Hamilton from Stilwell -- Northwest Arkansas Collision Center, Farmington, AR;
Ryan Hamilton from Stilwell -- Fayetteville Autopark Collision Center, Fayetteville, AR;
Chester Haywood from Talihina -- Buck Wilson Frame & Body Shop, McAlester;
Cody Knipe from Jay -- Trinity Restoration, Tulsa;
Josh Lytle from Enid -- Lyle's Paint & Body Shop, Enid;
Jerrad Mayfield from Hugo -- Reno Paint & Body, Paris, TX;
Bryan Merritt from Ardmore -- Mark Heitz Chevrolet Body Shop, Norman;
Russell Mills from Wichita, KS -- Jim Blankenship's Carstar, Tulsa;
Michael Moore from Hugo -- Lone Star Collision Center, Paris, TX;
Jessica Nester from Prague -- Fisher's Collision Center, Norman;
Ross Ragland from Ardmore -- Body Works, Inc., Norman;
Brent Ratliff from Burlington -- Body Works Inc., Oklahoma City;
Shelby Reeve from Oktaha -- James Hodge Ford Lincoln Mercury, Inc., Muskogee;
Carlos Rico from Ada -- Tulsa Collision Repair, Tulsa;
Austin Woodliff from Henryetta -- FTI Collision, Tahlequah;
Aaron Younger from Wellston -- Steve's Body Shop, Shawnee.

Contact: Sharon Smith, OSU-Okmulgee, (918) 293-5140