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Trip to Wilbert’s sets EMCC students up for success

The Collision Repair Technology class from EMCC recently took a field trip to Wilbert’s to gain a greater understanding of how a well-oiled automotive recycling business is run. It was also the kick-off to a vital project in teacher Joe Alati’s shop. Students were able to harvest their own car doors from Wilbert’s 38 acres of vehicles in Williamson. If they are able to strip the paint off, fix damaged areas, repaint, take the dozens of parts out of the door and put them all back in correctly, they will be well on their way to a career in collision repair.  

“The door is one of the hardest things to work on on the car,” said teacher Joe Alati. “If you can take the door apart, put it back together, everything works and do all this body work on it, then you can pretty much tackle just about anything on a car from low-tech to mid-tech easily. So, that’s where they're getting advanced skills.” 

The trip to Wilbert’s was eye-opening to say the least. The operation spans multiple different buildings and locations. The family-owned business offers a U-Pull-It self-service side; it’s also a premium auto parts vendor, tires and wheels service and a Christmas tree farm! Mr. Alati’s class was able to see how Wilbert’s recycles all the fluids from the cars; The company uses fuels to heat their buildings and resells other usable fluids at a fraction of the cost. Students also watched metal-crushing, saw cars moved with a giant claw, and they were able to see a warehouse that holds thousands of well-organized recycled parts.  

“Then we got our tools and went out to the yard,” explained Rush-Henrietta Senior Colton Bishop. “We all picked doors and we just went to any vehicle. It didn't matter which one because you can’t have too much damage really.” 

The partnership with Wilbert’s has layers and goes back decades. Aaron Wilbert was in Mr. Alati’s class and Aaron’s grandfather, who founded Wilbert’s, used to do business with Mr. Alati’s grandfather. This field trip to the recycling yard and the project that follows has been an important part of the curriculum for years, and students benefit in multiple ways.  

One student in the class, Douglas Maxwell, is working to open his own shop. “Going there allowed me to look at the other side of the collision repair industry and enabled me to see how we get the parts and how everything works together. I even got a chance to talk to the owner. He said one of the things to owning a successful business is community outreach. So, they do a lot of fundraisers and events for the community. That's one of the things I really liked.” 

The door panel project is one of the biggest projects of the year. It’s also very telling. “A student could say I love the painting part, but I don’t like the body part or I really love doing the body work, but I don’t want to do the painting,” said Alati. “So, it really helps them decide what part of the business they want to go into.” 

Visit EMCC's Facebook page to see more photos from the field trip by clicking here.