Lenoir Community College Automotive Customizing Technology student Harley Smith of Albertson recently received the 2016 Collision Repair Education Foundation 3M Hire Our Heroes Tool Grant award. The recognition comes with a $4,500 worth of tools for the collision repair industry.

For the past four years, 3M has teamed up with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to provide scholarships and tool grants to veterans entering the collision repair industry. This foundation is focused on training, supporting and educating students who are entering collision repair.

“As technicians in this industry retire, we find ourselves with a shortage of qualified individuals entering the business. This is 3M and the Foundation’s effort to address that problem we are facing,” 3M Collision Repair Representative Shane Creasy of Cary said.

Smith is a 20-year US Air Force veteran and served in the logistics and transportation field. He was stationed in North Carolina, Alaska, Nebraska and Virginia as well as several tours of duty overseas. Married for 17 years to his wife, Terry, they have two grown children, and a granddaughter.

After he retired, Smith said he took a year off to decide what he wanted to do. “A neighbor suggested the Automotive Customizing program because he knew I like old cars,” he said. “I met Toby Evans and this was just a great fit. The instructors, Toby (Evans) and Daniel (Shrader) have been great to guide us and help us along the way. I’ve learned a lot.”

“I am so grateful for this award,” Smith said. “This is really going to start me out on the right footing. I have accumulated some tools, but not body shop specific tools, collision repair specific tools. This is definitely a blessing to me and I do give thanks to God for all the blessings I have received. Every day I count my blessings,” he said.

“If you’re a student of history, you know that there have been times in our country that returning veterans have not been treated quite as well as they should have. This is humbling and great to me to see the respect and the admiration that the civilian community places with us veterans,” he said. “I am in awe of this. If my plans and God’s plans work out for my life, I will be working on cars in the second half of my life. I feel like this is what I should be doing.”

Creasy and Account Manager with CarQuest Auto Parts Gary Arnette made the award presentation at the LCC Automotive Customizing Technology facility on Vernon Avenue.

LCC Automotive Customizing Technology Program Chair Toby Evans said that Smith was an excellent student and most deserving of this award. “Harley is the first student ever at Lenoir Community College to receive the 3M Hire Our Heroes Tool Grant and we are very proud of him.”

For more information on the Automotive Customizing Technology Program, contact Evans at 252 686-0970.