What to Expect
Don't assume you can just sit back and coast through an autobody technician
program if you know how to hold a power sander. You will likely be surprised
by how much you can learn about collision repair.
Dan Coderre certainly was. He had been messing around cars in his backyard
whenever his contracting job allowed it. So he knew a thing or two about autobody
Then he decided to turn his hobby into his career. He enrolled in a collision
He says that in the beginning, he was more or less just interested in knowing
how to paint. But his interest in all aspects of auto collision repair soon
grew. "As the time went on, you'd just learn so much," he says.
During the first month of the program, students spend about half their
time in a traditional classroom, where they listen to lectures about tools
and techniques, says Coderre.
Later, they spend maybe three days a month in class. Students still have
to study for formal tests, but their marks come mostly from the shop assignments
The size and kinds of assignments vary. Students may take on many small
jobs or a few big ones. And they may actually end up working on the vehicles
of their instructors. "It keeps you in line," jokes Coderre. "It's kind of
intimidating. You don't want to mess up on his car, that's for sure."
Pam Anderson is a product of the two-year collision repair program at Portland
Community College. She spent two terms working almost exclusively on one vehicle,
a German luxury car that had a nasty accident.
The necessary repairs filled all of Anderson's time in the shop. But it
was well worth it. "I was really thrilled that I was doing it, because I
can look at the pictures now, then turn around and look at the BMW and see
that I did all that," she says. "I mean, this car was really crunched."
Classes tend to be small. This encourages camaraderie. "Everybody
helps everybody out," says Coderre. "It is really good."