Automotive design interests Milford resident Maddy Razzaia, a junior at Platt Technical High School. Thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC), Razzaia and other students throughout Connecticut will be better trained to pursue careers in automotive technology.

ABAC presented this donation in a ceremony at Platt Tech on Friday, Jan. 11, which was attended by a host of local and state officials – most notably, United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The funds will help the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System (CTECS) to modernize its automotive repair and refinishing program. This program is offered at Platt as well as seven other technical high schools statewide.

Blumenthal praised ABAC and noted that technical and career education fills an important need in a variety of industries – including the auto industry.

“Today’s cars are far different from the vehicles produced just 10 years ago,” Blumenthal noted. “The level of skill required to repair them and make them safe is more sophisticated than ever before. Vocational education is essential to the future of our country.”
Connecticut’s strongest asset
Blumenthal also noted that high-skilled technical workers are needed for the production of a variety of military hardware in Connecticut, including submarines, helicopters and aircraft engines. Yet in today’s tight job market, a lot of those jobs go unfilled, he said.

“That is where the great career education schools in Connecticut come in,” he said. “People like to run down Connecticut as too expensive to do business, but what we do have is some very smart, skilled people. ABAC’s donation is not a gift, but an investment in our future workforce.”

ABAC is a statewide association of auto-body shop owners, which are primarily small businesses. It pursues a variety of public-information initiatives, including helping people know what to do after a traffic accident as well as finding a body shop near them. It also has a consumer-advocacy mission, educating consumers about Connecticut’s anti-steering law – which gives Connecticut consumers the right to have their car fixed at the shop of their choice, not the insurers’.

“Here at ABAC we believe the future will come from these schools and programs,” said ABAC President Bob Amendola. “We also want to bring about an awareness that this is a great and viable career path.”

Amendola also contrasted career and technical education with the plight of so many college students, who have graduated laden with high debts and have difficulty finding jobs. Technical programs impart skills that are in high demand, he said.  
A passion for automobiles
“It’s most important to pick something that piques your passion,” Amendola said. There was plenty of evidence of that passion among automotive students at Platt Tech.

As most Platt students do, Tayden Doran of Branford began his high school years in an exploratory curriculum that exposed him to a variety of technical pursuits. “I found that I really liked the automotive program,” he said.

Doran’s classmate Anthony Oliveras also considered plumbing – but gravitated instead to the automotive program. In particular, he likes painting cars.

“I discovered I had a strong liking for it – and it would offer a good future, too,” Oliveras said.

This is the second donation of its kind that ABAC has made to Connecticut’s technical school network. In 2016 it matched $1,000 donations from five automotive firms: Kemperle Auto Body Paint & Equipment, based in Amityville, N.Y.; Auto Body Supplies & Paint of Bristol and East Hartford; Paint World of New Haven; Paul Francis & Company, also of New Haven; and West Springfield (Mass.) Auto Parts Plus. All five took part in this year’s donation as well.

Platt Tech Principal David Telesca praised this involvement in technical education by area businesses. “One of the things I’m especially proud of is the partnership between our school and members of the community,” Telesca said.

That partnership goes beyond providing funding for automotive technology and other programs. “The industry expertise they [ABAC] offer is invaluable to our staff,” said CTECS Superintendent Jeff Wihbey. “We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with ABAC and strengthening our collision repair program together.”