February 23, 2024

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From CREF Scholarship Recipient to Gerber Apprentice

When Olivia Peterson, a collision repair student at College of Lake County in Grayslake, Ill., applied for a scholarship through the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) earlier this year, she had no clue how far that simple action would take her in a short span of time.

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Chosen to receive a $2,500 scholarship from Gerber Collision & Glass, a division of the Boyd Group, Inc., in partnership with CREF, Peterson expressed her gratitude “for the investment in my future that this scholarship provides. By becoming a technician in the auto collision field, I hope that my actions will empower more women to pursue their own careers with cars, and this scholarship will ultimately help me realize this dream.”

A Dream Come True

Dreams have a funny way of coming true sooner than expected – or at least, that was true in this instance. Peterson applied for an internship at Gerber through their Technician Development Program (TDP) because she felt that “Gerber’s reputable, structured program would provide me with the best education for my new collision repair career.”

“Olivia is a fantastic employee who continues to amaze us,” said Luke Martin, technician development program school liaison for Gerber’s TDP. “Her work ethic is top-notch, and she has been an integral part of the Gerber team since day one. The drive that she shows for this position is something we hope to instill in all our employees.”

Peterson has learned a lot and acquired many new skills since joining Gerber.

“The best part of the TDP is the real-world experience,” she said. “Some aspects of the industry are impossible to accurately replicate in a traditional classroom environment. There is no better way to learn collision repair skills than in the actual environment in which you will be performing the work.

“Being an apprentice at Gerber has made me feel very confident in my abilities to succeed in this industry. I started out with very little automotive repair experience, and I am amazed by how much progress I’ve made and how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. I have a very realistic expectation of how the industry functions because I am immersed in it every day as an apprentice. The program teaches a wide variety of repair techniques that reflect the current I-CAR standard procedures, allowing future technicians to be prepared to handle anything that comes their way.”

National Apprenticeship Month

In honor of National Apprenticeship Month in November, Gerber featured several apprentices, including Peterson, on its social media platforms in recognition of their efforts and successes.

“These students are going to be the next workforce and will become an integral part of keeping this industry alive and well,” said Martin. “The demand for workers in the collision industry is steadily increasing, and the more relationships we can create to better support students, the better we can prepare for this increasing demand.”


The collision repair industry definitely faces its share of demands, but Peterson embraces it all, for better or worse, offering advice for other students and apprentices: “Do not shy away from any challenges! Some repairs can appear quite intimidating, but these are the repairs on which you will experience the most personal growth and which will serve you the most benefit throughout your career.”

Getting Involved with CREF

Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting CREF’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs should contact Brandon Eckenrode, director of development, at (312) 231-0258 or [email protected]. Monetary donations can be made online.

The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit CollisionEducationFoundation.org.