The Learning Curve
Stefano Liessi has committed himself to mentoring the next generation of collision repairers.
Stefano Liessi has been passionate about cars and fixing them for as long as he can remember. Having whetted his appetite on a diet of hot rod and custom car magazines, after finishing school he went into the collision repair trade.
With a desire to share his knowledge and expertise with others, he later became an I-CAR Instructor. A chance meeting during an I-CAR course at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) provided another opportunity and today, Liessi runs a successful secondary education auto body program at St. Joseph High School in Edmonton, Alta.
Recently, Collision Management sat down with Liessi and asked him about what drives him to teach and share his knowledge of collision repair, the current state of the industry regarding education and training and where he’d like to see it head in the future.
What are some of the key factors that drive you in wanting to teach and share your knowledge and experience?
I’m very passionate about fixing cars and performing collision repairs. For me it’s about doing those repairs properly and putting that vehicle back to OEM specifications. I love talking about it and believe there are others out there who share the same passion. Our industry needs to have educated people to work and repair these late-model vehicles, and in order to succeed we need more people to contribute to educating the next generation of collision repair technicians.
Can you tell us a little about what it’s like teaching auto body repair at the high school level?
There are some great benefits and also some challenges. Looking at the challenges, understanding the teenage brain is certainly one of them!
Also, we have these kids already working on cars and fixing them, but some of them have never driven a vehicle or turned on the ignition. So it is an interesting situation. They know how to repair the vehicle but don’t know how to drive it.
Another challenge is to maintain that level of engagement. Today there are many distractions for high school kids and many ways to get information and entertainment. I also think that we as an industry have a responsibility. There is still a stigma associated with our industry related to the public at large, and we need to continue to educate and change that perception.
Skilled trades are very important, and I think we need to understand that not every kid is going to go or wants to go to university. We need people to fix cars, pave the roads and build and maintain our infrastructure.
What would you like to see happen in the future?I’d definitely like to see a balance, with repairers, insurers, vendors and education centres working collectively to build trust and develop programs that help these students embark on the path to a rewarding career, which they can have in this industry. I also feel that it’s important for the instructors and the staff at schools and colleges to know how to research information, to have the resources to do that and be able to effectively implement it.
Skilled trades like ours can be an avenue to success for many, many kids, and our education system really needs to focus on that.