In the collision repair industry, it is difficult to attract a younger and diverse group to replace the older generation that fills the majority of our positions today. As a result, there have been renewed efforts to develop attractive and fulfilling careers for young professionals. We had the opportunity to meet an apprentice at CCIF Calgary who had an amazing story to tell. Not only is she a young professional, but also a woman in this VERY male-dominated industry. She is excelling in her career path as an automotive refinisher and she was kind enough to share her story. Here are a few questions she answered for us:
Q: What was your biggest influence to get you into the automotive industry?
A. There are a lot of reasons I chose the automotive industry. But my biggest influence was when I saw someone else make it an art. I mean, I knew it was out there but seeing it first hand made a big difference for me. That drove me to do more research on my own. I started getting more into it and eventually, it really excited me. It offered me a chance to be creative every day, while at the same time having a secure and profitable career.
Q: How old were you when you decided to get into the automotive industry?
A: I had worked in my families shop on and off since I was seventeen. When I decided to pursue automotive refinishing as a career, I was twenty-one.
Q: Where did you start when you first worked in the shop?
A: I started in the office part-time doing clerical work and helping customers. I really value this time because I got to see what happens on the estimating and vendor side of the shop.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced in the automotive industry?
A: The industry itself has been very welcoming and easy to transverse through my career path. My biggest challenges have been with individuals and workplace culture. What’s appropriate to say to your coworkers in the shop is not the same as in an office for example. I used to let people’s tone and language affect me. To overcome this I took some interpersonal skills training. I had hoped it would teach me how to deal with these workplace situations, and it did to an extent. But the most important thing I learned was that I can only control myself and feel confident in the things I say and do. You can’t change people but you don’t have to let them affect you. I’ve found a lot of personal power in this. So even though they were unfortunate situations in the moment they are valuable learning tools.
Q: Was it easy to find apprenticeship opportunities and scholarship programs within your career path?
A: I already had prior experience and schooling before I found my current job so it was easy for me to start out as an apprentice there. But if you’re just coming into the industry it’s more likely to start out in detail or shop clean up and move up. In my first shop, I did clean up and detail for a year before I got my apprenticeship. As well, there are so many scholarships, really all you have to do is go to an industry website and search them. To just name a few schools, ITA, ARA, WIN, and even some dealerships.
Q: Where are you currently in your career path, and where do you want to go in your career?
A: I am an automotive refinishing apprentice. There are a lot of things I want to achieve in my career. The automotive industry offers so many opportunities, it’s hard to choose just one. I would like to get into customs work, maybe do a year painting in another country, and teaching is something that really interests me.
Q: What advice would you give other women and other young adults currently getting their career started in this industry/ or thinking about getting into the industry?
A: Don’t be intimidated. You can learn any and all skills. And everyone has been in your position at one time or another. The most important thing is a good attitude and a desire to learn.