Inside the auto body repair shop at the Ormsby Educational Center in East Aurora, students like 17-year-old like Noah Goetz learn the ins and outs of fixing up cars.
"I am also thinking out going into the auto body industry. I have dreamed of opening up a shop for myself," he said.
Goetz, a high school senior from Eden, comes here through Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. He's been interested in cars since his younger years working with his father, and now looks forward to turning his passion into a possible career.
"You could just learn the basics and then just right out of high school go get a job," he said.
Frank Todaro was much like Noah when he was in high school in Lancaster. His father was a Sicilian immigrant who owned his own repair shop, and Frank went to a BOCES vocational school to discover more about the business.
"I loved what it was. He always directed me to be a doctor or a lawyer, ‘This is not what you want to do,’" Todaro said. "In my heart I already knew what I wanted to do."
Todaro followed in his father's footsteps, and more than 20 years later, he's the president and CEO of Collision Masters with two repair shops in the city of Buffalo and 42 employees. He's always looking for more good help, but says there's a shortage of young people who have the necessary skills.
"To find the employee that can fit that mold and do that job, it's very hard to find right now," Todaro said.
That's part of the reason he's giving back. Collision Masters recently upgraded a piece of equipment, and rather than send the old one to the scrap yard, they donated it to the auto body class at the Ormsby Center. The machine used to straighten the frame of the car. Todaro says it's worth about $10,000, but it's worth much to instructor Rick Drewery and his students.
"In June, they can walk into a shop like Frank's. He can say, 'Have you worked on this machine before?' 'Yes I have. I know how to set it up. I know how to correctly measure it,'" Drewery said.
Todaro hopes his donation will spur up business owners to do likewise and help foster the next generation of trade workers.
"There is a gap right now to fill those voids that we need, but I see it turning," Todaro said. "Helping out and donating and all the business getting together and doing what we can is what we need to do."
That's a strategy that could pay off with students like Noah Goetz, who learn the tools of the trade and tools for life.
"I've seen a lot of kids come in here without knowing anything, and they're leaving every day with knowledge and going home and actually doing it because it interests them," Goetz said.