In our video interview, Melissa Marscin from CREF discusses the challenges schools and students have faced due to the pandemic and how the industry can help develop its future workforce.
As the Congress made it easier for individuals to deduct charitable donations in the CARES Act passed to help the nation recover from the pandemic, the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) has ramped up its efforts to assist schools and students in these challenging times.
The Foundation, on Saturday, launched its 12 Days of CREF-mas winter giving campaign, highlighting 12 of the most impactful ways it makes a difference with high school and college collision programs as well as some of the creative fundraising activities of 2020.
In our video interview embedded below, Melissa Marscin, director of operations and administration for the Foundation, explains the challenges schools and students face during the pandemic as schools moved to virtual and hybrid learning formats, how the Foundation has mobilized the industry to provide virtual learning opportunities and the nonprofit charitable organization’s plans to help schools and students in the coming months.
Marscin explained how the pandemic drastically changed collision repair training programs at high schools and colleges across the country last spring as schools closed.
“Alot of them shut down right away overnight, with very little notice. Schools had to suddenly adapt from being a hands-on program, which obviously auto collision and autobody are, to being more virtual programs,” said Marscin.
“CREF did a lot of things to try and help in that realm, in terms of the virtual training,” explained Marscin. “We did try to help them by collecting all the resources that we had for webinars and links and anything we could help with to bring them some information and to bridge that gap. We also started what was called the student seminars.”
The Foundation leveraged its industry contacts to organize and host virtual learning opportunities for students in the seminars where industry trainers provided the latest information on tools, equipment and materials as well as soft-skills training to prepare graduates for future employment.
“We invited the industry in and we asked them to do some presentations to the students and instructors on various topics in the industry, something that would help to teach them while they weren’t able to be in the classroom, but still give them that education,” said Marscin.
Schools and students are also facing financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.
“A lot of schools ended up losing a lot of their budget in 2020, and they are not necessarily going to get it back in 2021. So, schools are scrambling to figure out how to make up that gap. A lot of them are turning to CREF to try and make up that gap and figure out how to get the extra funding they needed,” said Marscin. “There was also a huge problem of students who needed funding. A lot of students had side jobs that were ended up being furloughed or stopped during the duration of the pandemic. A lot of them utilized those funds to be able to pay for their education.
“Of course, without that funding, they were struggling. We actually just gave away over 100 scholarships and tool grants. We were able to help a lot of students that way, and we hope to announce our 2021 scholarship program soon, to help those students as well,” she continued.
Explaining the fundraiser launched December 12, Marscin said that its 12 Days of CREF-mas campaign will highlight how the industry has helped schools and students and how they can continue to help.
“With 2020 being such a transition and just challenging year, we wanted to end the year by showcasing some of the great things that have happened in the industry,” said Marscin. “Each day we’re going to feature a different story or something that we have seen in the industry with CREF help, to showcase the great things that are going on in the world.”
“Hopefully, it’ll give people a chance to not only smile and see some great stories, but also the chance to understand more about what CREF is actually about, who we’re trying to help, how we’ve made an impact. We hope that, the industry will consider joining us to even increase that more, so we can have even more of these success stories in 2021,” Marscin continued.
As part of the CARES Act passed by the U.S. Congress this spring due to the pandemic, individuals can deduct up to $300 of their cash donations, regardless of whether or not they itemize their deductions as in years past. They also removed some restrictions on the amount that can be deducted for taxpayers that do itemize.
Industry members can also sign up to receive emails from the Foundation about each of the 12 days of CREF-mas and other information online.
2021 School Support and Student Scholarships
As school operations continue to be impacted by the pandemic response, CREF is planning on a variety of virtual events as well launching its annual scholarship program in January.
“Obviously everything is still in transition, so schools are not sure what’s going to happen in the spring. They are trying to adapt for a plan A and a plan B, in-person, strictly virtual or a combination of the two,” said Marscin. “What we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to help them in both A and that B scenario.”
CREF plans to continue the virtual student seminars this spring.
“We would like to invite anyone from the industry, if you’re interested in doing a presentation for the schools, to get in touch with me. We would love to be able to give the students a variety of different topics throughout the spring. Again, if it is a virtual environment, it gives the instructors some more content and some different opportunities to showcase to students,” said Marscin.
Industry members interested in doing a virtual presentation for schools and students can contact Marscin via email at Melissa.Marscin@ed-foundation.org.
While in person career fairs, a staple of the CREF effort to connect graduates with employers the last several years may not be possible over the next few months, the Foundation will keep its efforts flexible in response.
“We’re looking to try and help as many students as possible who are looking for a career in the collision industry to help bridge them with that gap from schooling to employment. We will continue that, especially in the spring, when a lot of students are graduating and looking for work. Those are the highlights of what we’re looking for, for 2021. Trying to keep it nimble, trying to keep it flexible, but trying to do as much as we can to help the collision students, instructors around the country,” concluded Marscin.