Since 2017, Technical Director Todd Stogdell has donated expertise, supplies & mentorship to Honolulu’s oldest community college.
Autobody Source Staff
Honolulu means “sheltered harbor” or “calm port” in Hawaiian, and it’s a fitting home for the island’s oldest community college and its Auto Body Repair and Painting program (HCCABRP) located at Honolulu Community College.
A stand-out contributor to the program is Todd Stogdell, Master Collision Painter & Technical Director for Island Concepts in Honolulu, who has offered supplemental training to HCCABRP students since 2017. The program recently expanded its offerings to high school students as a gateway to the industry, and we caught up with Todd to learn more about its progress.
Island Concepts is one of over 200 collision shops in a small, 15-mile corridor on the island of Oahu. Todd is a huge advocate of trade education. “There’s a lot of collision work here in the area, there’s just not a lot of new people coming into the trade. So I try to work with the college as much as I can to help encourage new enrollment, as well as build relationships with the new students.”
The collision trade competes fiercely with the tourism and hospitality industries in Hawaii’s job market. Although the community college hosts career fairs and high school campus tours to generate interest in its program, “in my personal opinion, I don’t really feel that the career counselors are driving blue collar careers to the students as much as they do the other industries,” Todd says.
A MIX OF GOALS & CHALLENGES
Still, enthusiasm is high among the students Todd trains, ranging from becoming a body technician or custom painter to wanting to be a collision shop owner. He says one advantage of the HCCABRP is that its instructor, Marlene Spence, came onboard from her prior role as a product technical rep and is highly knowledgeable at teaching airbrushing and hand pinstriping in addition to core metal and plastic welding, frame repair, and other skills.
“She really brings a good amount of her skill base to these students hands-on, which previously they only received limited instruction in, and that definitely brings a different aspect to it all.”
Some students work on projects with Todd after class and have gained additional knowledge in techniques with metal flake and candy painting, and technologies like anti-static guns and spray gun lighting—which has helped the school tackle one of it’s biggest challenges: Outdated curricula and training materials.
“Before, the curriculum was very outdated,” Todd relates. “They had literature on how to repair a 1992 Pontiac Fiero. Now, they get to use a CNC estimating system, they’re doing blueprinting, they’re doing frame setups and measuring with the latest laser alignment technology. They’re getting more well-rounded knowledge than they were before, and it’s current to what they’ll see in a shop today.”
FUNDING IS NEEDED
HCC’s curriculum shortfalls come down to poor funding based on a misunderstanding of the needs of collision training versus academic courses. “A lot of the programs are gutted because the schools don’t understand the collision industry. In a live shop, there are lots of consumables involved and materials that can’t be reused, like sandpaper and body filler, compared with books and laptops,” Todd relates, noting that HCC is lobbying for more funding to make the students’ supplies readily available.
Island Concepts regularly donates bodyshop supplies to HCCABRP to offset the school’s limitations. “Marlene has really been working hard to capture resources and get the autobody community involved to get the supplies that they weren’t getting before.”
The Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) scholarship fund has also been instrumental in sponsoring HCC students and supplies.
As a distributor, Todd’s shop has partnered with Dent Fix Equipment in coordinating donations and subsidizing shipments of basic supplies like shunting pliers to the school. He also purchases and donates a portion of his shop’s monthly order of custom sanding blocks, detail kits and body shop accessories, courtesy of Big Kid Blocks, which the company voluntarily matches in kind as a standing order.
“I’m really hoping that more manufacturers come on board in the future,” Todd says. “
Todd’s greatest piece of advice to students is: “Just keep pushing forward. This isn’t an instant-gratification job. It takes time to get seasoned. The only way to learn is to learn through your mistakes. What makes a good painter is how he works himself out of a bad situation and move forward. In the spray booth, on the shop floor, and in daily life. ”