Careers For Collision Repair & Refinishing Technicians Podcast
Travis Vieira, Lincoln Tech Instructor - VIEIRA: Cars are a puzzle. Really, it's just a big, giant puzzle. So you have to know how to take the puzzle apart. You know how to fix the pieces and then put the puzzle back together.
Nina Lombardi, Hiring Manager at Gunslinger Custom Painting in Golden, Colorado: The Lincoln Tech grads understand the whole entire process pretty much from start to finish. If they don't understand it as much, they definitely pick it up quicker.
Joanna Swartz, Lincoln Tech Graduate and Collision Repair Technician: Collision repair is something that's always going to be needed. People get in collisions all the time and you're going to have that job security. It's definitely an important job.
Host: Welcome to the official podcast of Lincoln Tech. In this episode, we'll be looking at the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program. We'll find out what you can expect to learn and what kind of jobs are out there. We'll also find out that collision repair and refinishing technology means a lot more than just fixing bare bones. But first, Lincoln Tech’s mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, for transforming students’ lives and adding value to their communities. And Lincoln's promise to our students is simple. We will work tirelessly to help you succeed on the road to new career opportunities. Now let's dive into some details about the program.
Vieira: My name is Travis Vieira. I am the lead collision repair and refinish instructor for Lincoln Tech Denver. I graduated from the Collision Repair Refinish program and graduated with my Associate's Degree as well. I have 35 years in commercial production, automotive paint experience, which is the expertise that I bring to the program and I enjoy what I do every day.
Host: You hear that: 35 years of experience. This man is a wealth of knowledge. I'm sorry. Please continue.
Vieira: Our collision program is 12 months. There's ten different classes with those over those 12 months. The first one is an introduction. We're working on safety systems, OSHA requirements, SDLC, using the school systems, the computers, how we test, how we do our work, getting them registered for their iCar certifications. The first class is a bunch of “Let's get you set up to succeed and move forward through all the other classes”. From that class I'll go into basic welding and they'll learn how to make welds with steel. There's a follow up program, fabrication and the aluminum welding that comes later in the program where they'll make TIG welds and weld aluminum and start building parts from flat steel.
We have a structural class. We'll get them on the frame rack using laser and sonar measuring systems to measure and find damage in cars and then straighten them with the big frame machines. We're doing a lot less of that in the field, but we still want them to know the basics. Those cars are a puzzle, really. It's just a big, giant puzzle. So you have to know how to take the puzzle apart. You know how to fix the pieces and then put the puzzle back together. Once they finish structural, they'll go into electrical and suspension.
They'll learn brakes, they'll learn struts, they'll learn shocks, and they'll learn the electrical systems. They'll learn to scan the cars. Most systems now are pre and post scan, so when a car comes into the collision shop we scan it for any error codes. Look in and create a list of what’s in there. Once the repairs are all done, then scan and make sure they get all the codes corrected and fixed and input before the cars go back out on the road. They're doing a lot of scanning in their electrical class.
And then we have two phases that are bodywork. A lot of people say Bondo, but we say body filler. Bondo is a type of body filler. That's the first one they'll learn to straighten down sound, both steel and aluminum, and fill those dents for the body filler and get them ready for paint. And then the next one is plastics. The advanced bodywork is plastic, so they'll learn to nitrogen weld bumpers, they'll learn to use bumper patches. You learn to use staples. And staples are kind of like stitches for the bumpers. So you have a little gun and it heats up a piece of metal and you put it right over the cracks to add some structure back there before you finish doing the bodywork on those panels. Paint class first.
Paint class is just basics. Learning to paint, learning to do blend repairs, learning how to mix paint. And then a second paint class, which is all advanced paint striping, airbrushing, two tones, all the advanced stuff on why they're here. A little learned on detailing cars, polishing cars, polishing headlights, all of all those types of things as well. And then we have we finish up with an estimating class where they learn how to recognize the damage, how to estimate the damage, and how to put together an estimate.
Host: Well, that sounds pretty comprehensive, doesn't it? Let's talk to some people who have completed this program at Lincoln Tech.
Richard Martinez, Lincoln Tech Graduate and Collision Repair Technician: My name is Richard Martinez. I attended Lincoln Tech in 2019. I work in the collision industry; I love doing art, drawing, painting, airbrush work, a little bit of pinstriping, but I'm still practicing on some of that. In my current position as a technician, I work for Camping World Collision Center, so it is a little bit out of the traditional sense of collision repair as far as being auto repair. I work on RVs, fit wheels, tow longs, trailers. Basically, you have a lot of fiberglass work. There's some different aspects to our specific shop here. We fix everything […] from framework to plumbing to electrical awnings. Collision, paint, we replace roofs. So it is a little bit more of a unique aspect of the industry, like I said.
Swartz: My name is Johanna Swartz. I attended Lincoln Tech at Indianapolis January 2021 and graduated December that same year. And now I work at Textron Aviation in the Paint Department, and we do strip and paint on planes and paint repairs.
Host: Wait. Airplanes. What exactly do you do with planes?
Swartz: We'll do a complete repaint of a plane, so we will completely strip all the paint off the plane, down to the material, and then start from there, start with the primer, and then we start painting it. And then whatever stripe design that the customer wanted on the plane, we'll take that out and paint that on. And then if there's damage to the paint, we'll do touch ups. If there's new parts that are replaced on the plane, we'll paint those.
Host: The Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program at Lincoln Tech will prepare you to work in a shop to fix wrecked cars and fender benders like a pro. But this program teaches you a lot more than that. And both Richard and Johanna working with RV's and airplanes are proof that the industry is much, much bigger than you think.
Martinez: Lincoln Tech showed me the ropes as far as a basic introduction to bodywork, which includes sanding, body sealer, glazing, priming and then ultimately prepping for paint. They also prepped me in the aspect of frame pulling: once a car gets damaged and the frame’s bent, they have a big machine which they hook up. To bring the car back into the spec and fiberglass work, that's a big one. Plastic, which as we know, a lot of the manufacturers are changing from the traditional metal sense of parts to more fiberglass or plastic. And there's a lot of aspects of my job that I do kind of reflect on. We do framework and we do structural work, so that requires welding. I did take a course in welding with Mr. Smith and I reflect back to the training and the overall hands on approach that he takes. The paint work, I would have to chalk up to Travis Vieira. He was my paint instructor and also my body filler instructor, along with Mr. Fink. So, yeah, I would say in all aspects of the job or my position or my title, every job is different. But at the same time, it all requires the training that I had at Lincoln Tech to accomplish that.
Swartz: I learned about prep work and paint in the collision program, and that has translated very well to the aviation painting: learning how to sand, how to properly apply the paint, how to adjust the gun. I did quite a bit of sanding at school and there's a lot of sanding to do on a frame and blending paint as well. So when we do a spotting, we have to blend it out. The technique of making sure that there's no hard lines in the paint when you're when you're putting it on so that it looks nice, like it's flowed in. And my teacher, Mr. Cain, was really helpful with certain techniques.
Host: We know that Lincoln can prepare you very well for working in this industry. So let's talk to a real life hiring manager.
Lombardi: My name is Nina Lombardi. I am the H.R. manager at Gunslinger Customer. We are a local peach shop and we are Harley-Davidson’s tier one supplier. So we paint all of their custom vehicles, limited edition, anything that has graphics or content or detail on it. Pretty much we paint for Hartley. So Lincoln Tech has their collision and their automotive programs that they train. They're students to paint, to fix dents in cars, to detail cars, anything like that, that has to do with automotive. So that's what they go to school for. That's what they're passionate about. And those are the kind of people that we need to hire. So when somebody goes to Lincoln Tech, they're passionate about anything, automotive or collision related. So that's those are the people that we need because that's the kind of people that we need here.
Host: Are you partial to Lincoln Tech graduates over graduates from other programs?
Lombardi: Yes, they are definitely ahead of the game. They know more about the processes than most people off the street do. So a lot of them, because they're passionate about cars, they're usually passionate again about motorcycles, which helps because they'll know what a rear fender is, they'll know what a fascia is, they'll know what a tank is, where most people who come off the street that just applied to a job don't know what those parts are and don't know what they're called. So they'll know the parts, they'll know what they're called.
They'll know about wet sanding, which is super helpful. Because a lot of people don't understand it and they already know and understand why we do it. They know about processes and cleaning vinyl and plastic parts off to be able to paint them. The Lincoln Tech grads understand the whole entire process pretty much from start to finish. If they don't understand it as much, they definitely pick it up quicker.
Host: Nina, you're an actual hiring manager in this field. How big is the demand for people with these skills?
Lombardi: For auto body in general? Is the demand for people with some skills probably high? The problem is, is that there's not a whole lot of people and there's a whole lot of open positions.
Host: She said a whole lot of open positions.
Lombardi: It's really hard to find any applicants right now. I mean, I used to post a job with just a general labor wet sanding position and I would get 20 to 40 applicants. I now get zero. I think it's pretty similar from what I hear from other industry people that it's the same.
Host: And what kind of pay can Lincoln Tech graduates expect?
Lombardi: We start off in between about 18 and 20 an hour. Based on your experience, we may go a little bit higher if you have more experience. We do a 90-day review where they potentially have the opportunity to get a pay raise. And then we also do annual reviews. And then I'm working on a structure right now that would give people the opportunity to promote within their knowledge base and make more money that way.
Host: So how can Lincoln Tech help you find those jobs?
Vieira: We have a standalone career advising service, a service center. There's a director and several career advisors, and from day one, they start working on building a resume. They update the resumes throughout the program.
Swartz: My career services representatives helped me out a lot with finding opportunities and also contacting those people. I think having her and my teacher, Mr. Fowler, go to those people that I applied to and telling them I was a good student really helped out a lot.
Vieira: We have live career fairs that go on throughout the year. We bring the employers out to the campus to meet the students and work with the students in their environment. Days like today, we have BMW here presenting an additional training program that they offer to graduates. Active and working hard all the time. Twice a year, we have packed meetings where advisors come into the facility to review the curriculum. It's my chance to get with them in a room and see where we need to go and how we need to advance the program to make sure the technicians we're sending out are able to go to work.
Host: Travis just said something interesting. Not only does Lincoln Tech help you find a job and a career, the school also partners with professionals in the industry to make sure that as a student, you're learning the most up to date information and processes.
Vieira: In any one of the programs at any one of our campuses, whether it's collision repair, whether it's welding, automotive or whatever, we have dedicated hard working instructors that have field experience and that are wanting to pass on that knowledge to the next generation of technicians.
Swartz: Collision repair is something that's always going to be needed. People get in collisions all the time and you're going to have that job security. It's definitely an important job.
Vieira: If you love what you do, then it's not work. And if you're passionate about cars and you want to know how to weld, you want to know how to paint - if you're interested in those things – then this this is a program you should consider. Follow your passion. And I try to talk to a lot of the students when they come here on tours and they're looking at the different programs, and I guide them a little bit. Just follow your passion. I've been painting since I was 17 years old. I love it. I learn stuff all the time because the industry is constantly changing. And I still make mistakes. I still make mistakes all the time. It's an ever changing environment and the opportunities are just endless.
Host: After hearing so much about the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program at Lincoln Tech, I'm curious: is this art?
Martinez: The creative boundaries are limitless in this career. When it comes to custom work, fleet work or, fixing RV's, obviously you need to make them back to factory. There are some aspects of this industry that are completely creative and hands on I would absolutely say this is a this is art.
Host: That's why Lincoln Tech teams with Dave Kindig, owner of Kindig It Design and star of the television series Bitchin’ Rides to create the Kindig Academy. Earning a Kindig Academy certification will be a unique credential for a custom vehicle designer and fabricator, and it's only available at Lincoln Tech. Does the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program at Lincoln Tech sound like a fit for you? Find out more information, schedule a campus tour and talk to instructors or the career services team online at Lincoln Tech dot Edu.
Host: This podcast is a production of BG Ad Group. Darren Sutherland Executive Producer. Jeremy Powell, Creative Director. Jacob Sutherland, Director. Producers Jason Gentrola and Matt Golden, and Kezia Berd, Copywriter. All rights reserved.