Mike Hofstetter, collision repair instructor at Rolla Technical Institution (RTI), currently teaches 30 students, a mix of first and second years, and when he’s done teaching for the day, he still finds time to sharpen his own skills to make sure he’s the most qualified instructor he can be. Recently, Hofstetter completed the necessary coursework to receive a platinum-level certification from the I-CAR program, an accomplishment only four others in the state of Missouri can boast.

“I-CAR was developed as a teaching, training school for professional people to learn new skills and learn how to repair newer automobiles,” Hofstetter said. He explained the organization came to be in 1984, as the automobile industry was changing from full-frame models to what he described as “unitized construction.” I-CAR was developed to help professionals stay on top of a changing industry and does the same today, as well as introduces up-and-coming professionals to the field.

“It’s expanded to the point they’re teaching basic beginning information to high school students,” said Hofstetter, who uses the organization’s curriculum in his classroom.

Hofstetter explained that obtaining the platinum level of certification from I-CAR isn’t required by the state, so most vehicle repair professionals don’t pursue it due to the required time commitment. However, Hofstetter said he felt the need to obtain the certificate to make sure he was doing the best job he could.

“My way of thinking is that everyone who teaches should complete that,” he said. “It’s not required by the state, but it does reflect one’s ability to stay on top of their game and keep up to date.”

Hofstetter explained there are less than 100 individuals in the United States with the same certification.

“If I’m not striving and reaching my highest ability, how can I expect that from my students?” he asked.

Hofstetter entered the teaching field after selling his own collision repair business, and the satisfaction  of teaching has kept him working hard at RTI.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with people and always enjoyed teaching new skills and imparting my abilities to other people’s [skills],” he said. “There’s no greater reward than to take somebody and show them something they didn’t know how to do. That’s what keeps you here.”

The automobile industry is changing rapidly, according to Hofstetter, and the need to constantly review chaining methods and procedures is important.

“Automobiles are changing so rapidly that nobody who learned how to repair an automobile even five years ago, if they haven’t stayed up on training, is current to repair on automobile,” he said, and explained how a procedure he knew three weeks ago could be different today.

Hofstetter strives to pass on this commitment to staying current to his students, as well as a solid work ethic and other life skills.

“My primary job here is to help young men and women be successful in life,” he said. Even if students decide not to pursue collision repair after his program, he makes sure to give them transferable skills to be useful elsewhere, as well as what they might need to be a hardworking adult.

“Collision repair is a big part of what I do, but life skills are my biggest job,” he said. “Helping every student become successful in life.”