CALGARY — Inspiring minds through inspiring people.
That was the theme of the evening on Friday when legendary custom car wizard Chip Foose dropped by an event hosted by Carlson Body Shop Supply and BASF in Calgary—allowing the industry to nurture the next generation of auto collision specialists.
"We're trying to give back, to encourage more youth to come into our industry — because we need them," said Jamie Corbeil, Sales Manager for Carlson Body Shop Supply.
The event was also a way for Carlson Body Shop Supply to show appreciation for customers and thank them for their business.
Foose — best known for his long-running automotive makeover reality TV program Overhaulin' — hosted the event to lend support towards struggling auto body programs at five Calgary high schools.
"He custom-designed three pedal cars, very similar to the ones students designed for World of Wheels," Corbeil said, referring to the auto show's Pedal Car Custom Challenge which pits local students against each other to create tricked-out custom mini-cars.
Auctioned off Friday night, the three Foose originals netted a little over $4,000.
"They're in desperate need of funding for their program, everything from materials to equipment to training," Corbeil said.
"It's critical for us. What we're trying to do is encourage youth to come into the collision industry, and let them know there are lots of opportunities, not just as technicians but also as future damage appraisers and production managers."
With the number of high school graduates entering trade schools on the decline, getting the younger set to consider the skilled trades as a career option is vital, according to event attendee Doug Wiebe of collision repair supply firm Caruk & Associates.
"We have a deficit of technicians in this business," he said.
"If we can get more people coming in at the bottom end again, it's really important because our industry is aging."
Also on hand Friday were the build team from Calgary's Bishop Grandin High School, whose rumble-seat rocking roadster won best-in-show at February's World of Wheels.
Gary Thoreson is an instructor at Bishop Grandin. He said such initiatives are vital in ensuring the collision repair industry gets a steady stream of fresh talent.
"Good body shop kids coming out of high schools are hard to find," he said.
"We try to run with the trades and get the kids trained into something they know they can get a job—by the time people come out of university, the kids that are working in the trades have already made their money.”
Entering Carlson's meticulously spotless Training Centre to a welcome usually reserved for a rock star, Foose's influence on the auto body industry is hard to ignore, said Corbeil.
"Chip's not only a very talented designer, he's just overall a great human," he said. "He genuinely cares about the future of the industry, and takes a lot of pride in what he does—a really good representative for the collision industry."