The ongoing support of local taxpayers has kept the doors open at Northeast Technology Center for more than 40 years, but on occasion a patron goes above and beyond in their support of NTC. Such is the case with Robert Foreman, whose donation to the Auto Collision Program at NTC Afton is enhancing the skills of the students who are training to be technicians.
“I went through the program in 1979, and now I have my own body shop,” Foreman said. “It’s a good program, and I learned everything I needed to get started.”
Foreman comes from a long line of car enthusiasts – his grandfather and father were both mechanics, but when he expressed an interest in auto body work as a teenager, his father encouraged him to pursue that career.
“Junior’s Wrecker Service was started by dad in 1975, and he said if I would learn to do paint and body work, we could have a full service shop. So I did,” Foreman said. “I worked at Chrysler and Ford dealerships right after NTC, and then I started my own business in ‘83.”
Foreman is now the owner and operator of both Junior’s Wrecker Service and Foreman's Auto Body out of Vinita, and he views the donation of a Chrysler 300, an Oldsmobile Bravada and a Nissan Ultima as an investment with long term results.
“My son is in the program now, and he told me they needed vehicles to take apart,” said Foreman. “With our wrecker service we crush vehicles, so I visited Mr. Hanshaw – who’s a really good instructor – and offered to help with the resources that I have.”
As the instructor, Hanshaw is pleased that the donation will save thousands of dollars in his program budget while also expanding the students' skillset.
"Our students begin their time in the shop by taking things apart and putting them back together," Hanshaw said. "They'll take apart, fenders, hoods, bumpers, interiors - anything that bolts on - and then reassemble it."
Foreman's donation provides the students hands-on experience with different makes and models, and at the end of the year, he will haul off the used trainers and provide new models.
"The problem with 'trainer' cars is that when you pull them apart 15 or more times, they wear out. Bolts and fasteners start breaking," Hanshaw said. "Thanks to Mr. Foreman, we will be able to rotate through trainer cars destined for salvage yard, keeping our students working in different cars every year."
Kalyn Wilmoth, a second year student from Miami, appreciates the variety in the trainers.
"I like that they're different from last year," Wilmoth said. "If you get a job doing this you're not going to be working on the same car twice, so it's nice that they're different."
Jonathan Lee of Quapaw is a first year student who's learning to embrace the challenges of the Auto Collision program.
"I love working on these trainers. It was a challenge, but there wasn't one thing I didn't like working on," Lee said. "I struggled with a bunch, but I learned and I met my goal within the time."
Students enrolled in the Auto Collision Program perform structural repairs on vehicles, and are constantly working to improve their skills and speed of execution. The faster and more efficient they work, the greater their rate of pay.
"Bolts are not the same size on every car. You can have three different bolts in one door panel, and it's hard to know where to put them back again," said Brian O'Dell of Wyandotte. "This work requires a lot of organization, and the more you practice, the better you get."
At the end of the year, Foreman has offered to haul the used trainers to the salvage, replacing them with fresh models during the next school year. And he plans to keep supporting the program, even after his son graduates.
“We need technicians in this industry and NTC produces some good ones,” Foreman said. “If there’s anything I can do with the resource that I have, I’ll do it, and I’ll keep doing it even when my son is outta there.”