Q: How did you hear about Okanagan College’s program?
A: I found the program on Okanagan College’s website while browsing training possibilities for a new career. I applied because I felt like trying something new.
Q: Why did you want to pursue this career?
A: I chose this career because I’ve always been interested in vehicles. Before I enrolled in the program, a friend of mine was in a car accident and wrecked his car. He knew I was interested in cars so he gave it to me to work on. In the process of fixing it up, I really felt like I could see myself doing this as a full-time career. Now that the car is fixed, it’s always a rewarding feeling for me to drive that car now and know that I saved it.
Q: Do you have a favorite learning experience or project while taking the program?
A: One of my favorite parts about the program was to be able to learn about the trades while working on my own car. I welded in a patch repair and fixed multiple body repairs on my car. The best part was being able to finish the final assembly on my car after I gave it a fresh, new paint job.
Q: As a student in this program, what advice do you have for other students who are considering this training?
A: With bodywork, make sure each stage is done to the best of your ability. For example, ensuring the bare metal is nice and smooth before putting body filler on the spot that needs repair. Repairs are completed in stages and if you don’t take your time and make each step perfect, you’ll just be fighting the imperfections throughout each layer and you’ll never get a perfect finish.
Q: What are some of the most beneficial things you learned in the program that has helped you during the industry work placement?
A: All the practice with metal straightening and body filler helped me feel confident with being able to repair actual customer vehicles. Completing the door practical assignment in class helped me understand how doors come apart and go together. You have to take off many door trims and handles in the trade so the practice in class was great and helped me feel prepared for work.
Q: What has been a big learning curve for you in the program?
A: I found it a challenge to learn about how metals move. With metallurgy, it’s easy to work harden the metal by rolling or hammering the work piece and you can make a mess if you're not using the right techniques for the repair.
Q: Walk us through your average day during the work placement.
A: During the work placement I was often assigned to “R&I vehicles” which stands for “Remove and Install”. For these vehicles, I had to take off components as outlined on the estimate. Most days, I worked on bumper covers, door handles, mirrors, headlights and was able to complete two dent repairs through all body work stages. I helped a journeyperson reskin a door and quarter panel on a mustang. Some of the tools I used were dual action sanders, blocks, spitznagel dent remover and many other tools.
Q: What were you most surprised to learn during the work placement that you didn’t learn while training on campus?
A: I feel like everything was covered in training. The technicians have nice little tricks of making certain tasks easier but that's about it.
Q: Share a highlight from your experience during the work placement.
A: One highlight from my experience was being able to see the car I had just repaired get detailed and sit out front waiting for the customer to pick it up. It was a rewarding feeling.
Q: Why do you feel work placements are important for learning the trade?
A: Work placements are important because you do need to get a taste of what it’s really like in the industry. It’s also great because you might get a job out of it!
Q: What are your future career goals?
A: My goal is to become a Red Seal Auto Body Technician.
Q: Would you recommend Okanagan College’s foundation program to others?
A: Yes, there is so much to learn and all the topics are interesting. It takes a while to get good skills so to have the College’s training space to practice can really give you a great head-start once you enter the trade.
Q: What advice do you have for current students wanting to pursue a career in this trade?
A: When you are getting started in this trade, find a good Journeyperson or shop that will go above and beyond to support you during your apprenticeship journey.
-Jesse Clifford, work placement employer, CSN Springfield Autobody
Collision repair programs focus on attention to detail and the importance of a quality repair. With the guidance of Okanagan College's Red Seal certified instructors, students gain practical experience with the latest equipment and increase confidence with an industry work placement included in the entry level training program.