The director of a popular collision repair program at Fayetteville Technical Community College has resigned, in part because he says the school became too closely aligned with one company.
Paul Gage, who led the program since it started three years ago, left in May 2017. “The college and I had a different view of how the program should be run,” he said. Part of the issue was the relationship Fayetteville Tech has with Caliber Collision, which calls itself the largest collision repair company in the nation. “I’d be lying if I said that didn’t have something to do with my leaving,” Gage said.
Caliber operates a program at the college called Changing Lanes. It is one of several “Transition Tech” programs intended to provide workforce training to transitioning military members, according to Pam Gibson, dean of engineering and applied technology at the college. Former troops who successfully complete the 18-week program are guaranteed a job with Caliber, according to college’s website. Company officials could not be reached for comment. Gage said Changing Lanes was separate from Fayetteville Tech’s two-year associate degree program in collision repair, which is known as Collision U. “There were two paths,” he said. “As we went forward, those two paths were starting to merge into one.” The Changing Lanes program was initially located in the same shop as the associate degree program, Gage said. When representatives from other companies would visit, they’d ask about the Caliber program. “There was a lot of explaining to do,” he said. Gage said Changing Lanes was eventually moved to another location on the college campus. “There was a trust issue at that point,” he said.
Gage said he doesn’t fault Caliber for taking advantage of the opportunity to train their employees at Fayetteville Tech. He just wasn’t personally comfortable with the impact on the collision repair program.
“I want it to be for the whole industry,” he said. “I felt it was becoming too focused on one company.” Gibson said college officials maintain “regular contact” with companies in the collision repair industry. The college invites all companies in the industry to recruiting events called “Draft Days.” “These companies continue to express their support for Collision U and FTCC,” she said. Members of the military who are leaving the service can apply for either program, Gibson said. “Changing Lanes students who wish to continue their education are welcome to continue their training at Collision U,” she said. “So far no Changing Lanes students have made that decision; however, if any do, we will work with them to award curriculum credit for the instruction they received through Changing Lanes.”
Gage also said the college was making some changes to the two-year program. He declined to provide details other than to say that his role was changing. “Had I known that was going to happen I would have negotiated a different contract,” he said. “It may very well have been the plan all along, but it was never communicated to me.” Gibson said the direction of the program has not changed. Students continue to get the same certifications that have been offered. The number of students in the program is similar to previous years, she said. “The focus continues to be on providing a quality work force for the collision repair industry,” she said.
Gage said he feels good about the work he did at the college. “The program belongs to Fayetteville Tech,” he said. “They have the right to do what they feel is best for the program and the community.”
Gage said he is going to do consulting work for schools that want to start similar programs. He’s also going to work with a company in Texas. “I hope the program continues,” he said. “I hope it continues to be successful.” Gibson said Fayetteville Tech has a strong team that will make sure the program continues to go forward. “We greatly value what Mr. Gage brought to the program, but his departure will not impact the program’s ability to continue to provide outstanding training to our students and employees for the industry,” she said. Gibson said that while Changing Lanes is a partnership with Caliber, students in Collision U can seek employment with any collision repair company. “FTCC is open to creating a program similar to Changing Lanes with any collision repair company that would be interested,” she said.
Credit: The Fayetteville Observer