November 20, 2020
Devan Beaudoin
Filed Under:
Events, Culture, Industry

A Helping Hand for Tomorrow's Professionals

A Helping Hand for Tomorrow's Professionals

During a period when our industry workforce is shrinking, it is vital to help mentor and support new collision repair professionals. FinishMaster recently took the opportunity to lend a helping hand to collision repair students, proudly donating to the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF).

The mission of CREF is to support collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. In 1980, in response to the critical personnel and graduate shortage, CREF dedicated themselves to develop, promote, and distribute a curriculum program designed to teach the skills most needed by entry-level employees of collision repair shops.

FinishMaster was fortunate enough to be able to donate funds and materials to the Norwalk High School Collision Repair and Refinishing Program in Norwalk, California, led by Ken Cook. Cook, U.S. Army Veteran and student advocate, has been dedicated to his students and program since 2006. When educational cuts became worrisome in 2012, Ken began looking for ways to minimize operation costs, in large part, due to the cost of consumables. He knew he needed to find a sustainable solution to keep the program up and running for his students.

Ken stumbled upon the Collision Repair Education Foundation when he was working to strengthen their SkillsUSA chapter involvement. After applying for a CREF grant, he began receiving donated consumables such as: masking tape, abrasives, paints, solvents, etc. These new resources allowed their program to drastically reduce operational costs. More importantly, the new interest from the industry caught the attention of site and district administrators. The supplies that were received also helped my students prepare for the SkillsUSA contests.

“We started winning left and right, which was much more exciting than losing. The recognition from those achievements created a momentum, which took our program into an unimaginable direction. “– Ken Cook

Currently, the Norwalk High School Collision Repair and Refinishing Program is the only program within our industry to earn the SkillsUSA Model of Excellence Award, the highest honor offered through their organization. The best part? They haven’t just won the award once, but six times! The award is based upon community impact, while following the SkillsUSA framework.

Ken Cook, Anthony Boyce & FM Team Members
Instructor Ken Cook with original SkillsUSA student, Anthony Boyce. Donation presented by FM Team Members Haydee Camou and Natalie Escobedo at the local branch in National City, CA.


The history of Norwalk High School’s Collision Repair and Refinishing Program and Ken Cook is nothing short of inspirational. Being led by Ken, previously named one of Fender Bender Magazine’s Most Influential Teachers, the fully inclusive program has helped change our industry for the better and more importantly, the lives of its students. If you are looking for a program to support, that makes a positive impact, look no further.

FinishMaster is committed to helping the refinisher family evolve and grow, along with the industry, and we couldn’t think of a better way than by supporting CREF and the Norwalk High School Collision Repair and Refinishing Program. Thank you to Ken and students, for your dedication to our industry and showing us all how to use our talents and abilities for good. We hope the materials help you to learn and grow into skilled individuals – and maybe even win some more awards! We wish you luck and cannot wait to see the amazing things you accomplish in the future.

If you are interested in donating to CREF or learning more about the efforts of their organization, please visit their site at

To read more about Ken and his students, check out the links below for some inspiration.