Rising to the occasion
Santa Fe, N.M.— When the moment arose for Chris Coriz and his students to take their program to the next level, they were ready.
As part of SEMA pilot program developed to engage the next generation of automotive professionals and enthusiasts, high-school students from Coriz’s Santa Fe Early College Opportunities (ECO) Auto Shop Program in Santa Fe, N.M., oversaw and executed an entire project vehicle build — including tracking time, expenses and associated resources — using a pre-owned Jeep purchased and donated by SEMA.
“The SEMA collaboration was a huge experience for our students,” Coriz said. “After we worked with SEMA to get the Jeep and were preparing the build overview, we presented the project to parts manufacturers and began asking for donations. It was real-life experience for them — putting themselves out there and networking.”
Coriz, who has been an instructor at ECO for 12 years and head of the auto shop program for five, already had the foundations of a high-caliber collision and mechanical repair education program laid. The shop had established industry partnerships with companies such as PPG, which installed a $40,000 Envirobase paint mixing station at the facility. Coriz had also used Perkins Grants to supply the facility tools and equipment, including SATA spray guns and a downdraft paint booth with an oven, to ensure students had access to tools being used in the industry.
But the SEMA collaboration offered a broader educational opportunity for his students. Life lessons in the art of “selling yourself” and closing the “knowledge action gap” between the classroom and real life application, as well as opening their eyes to the job opportunities that abound in the automotive industry.
He helped each student prepare resumes, business cards, and a pitch before the show. Coriz, who took his students to the SEMA Show in 2017, had them make follow up calls to manufacturers they spoke with at the event and, by the time the build was well under way, so many offers from companies looking to donate were flooding in that Coriz said he had to turn some donations away.
“I received positive feedback from many of the companies that ended up donating parts who told me they get calls daily from schools asking for donations, but what set our students apart was the professionalism and the in-person interaction.”
SEMA assisted Coriz and his students every step of the way. Zane Clark, SEMA’s senior director of education, orchestrated the donation of a 2015 Jeep and launched a public relations campaign to support Coriz and his students in getting donations. Photographers, videographers and writers visited the students in Santa Fe to record the build, and the association worked with Bernal Auto Style to create a build overview that the students used throughout the process. SEMA also orchestrated the auctioning of the completed Jeep on the website, Bring A Trailer. It ultimately sold for $56,175. SEMA donated 100 percent of those funds to Coriz’s program.
Development of SEMA curriculum, ECO program’s future
The Jeep build wasn’t just about “building a cool vehicle,” but also to develop a curriculum that SEMA could use to launch its SEMA Student Vehicle Build program.
“SEMA funded hours and hours of work put in behind the scenes for curriculum development which they’ll use for future student vehicle builds,” Coriz said. “Part of the goal behind this project was to get the core classes involved – so, for instance, I worked with English, math and science teachers to get their students involved in the project as well. Science teachers used the Jeep suspension as a way to teach physics, and English students helped us with press releases and news stories. SEMA is using the curriculum in its application process to vet schools that have shown interest in doing their own student vehicle build.”
The ECO Auto Shop Program will continue its partnership with SEMA, and coordinate another build for its students, Coriz said, adding that he is also in discussions with I-CAR currently about the possibility of having the ECO collision repair facility become a certified I-CAR training facility by the end of 2019. If things go as planned, Coriz will work with I-CAR instructors to train and become an I-CAR certified trainer himself, which would allow him to certify his students with some I-CAR certifications before they even graduate from high school.
“Even if things don’t go as planned with I-CAR, we’re going to start prepping and paying for students to take certain I-CAR tests and get certifications,” Coriz said.
The school has also begun working with Capitol Ford and the local Chevy and Dodge dealerships to institute a job-shadowing program for Level 3 and 4 (third and fourth year) students who show focus and interest in becoming collision repair technicians.
“My Level 3 and 4 students already do real collision repair jobs at our facility. We work with insurance companies and teach them to focus on doing the job correctly. It’s a customer’s vehicle and we get paid for the repair, which is part of how we fund our program,” Coriz said. “The job-shadowing program will lead to internships and, hopefully, full-time employment for students at local dealerships that are really hurting for qualified technicians.”
The school has also secured a $10 million bond and will expand its campus in the next five years, including updating the auto shop with state-of-the-art equipment, Coriz said.
“Something SEMA really pushed was getting the students to understand that working in the automotive industry doesn’t mean just ‘wrenching’ – there are opportunities in web development, photography, communications, engineering — the list goes on. They really had a vision for the project to teach students that they can work in this industry and also follow their passions.”