Tag Archives: Chris Stephens

Collision Repair Q & A

The Collision Repair program at Parkland College received a lot of attention when they moved into the beautiful, state-of-the-art Parkhill Applied Technology Center facilities, but I hadn’t been back into that space much in the last two years.

I visited with instructor Chris Stephens about the programs being offered there, and was intrigued to learn more about the discipline and opportunities.

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Collision Repair instructors Dan Swann, left, and Chris Stephens, right

Q: What classes make up the Collision Repair curriculum?

A: Students enrolling can expect to take career-specific classes in the first semester. Those include dent repair, estimating, and glass trim and hardware. Those are prerequisites to other classes like automotive refinishing, structural repair, custom refinishing (using the airbrush), and custom upholstery. Students also take core classes in math, English, and speech.

Q: What is the job outlook like for Collision Repair students?

A: The students who want to work can almost guarantee themselves a job. Shops and insurance companies call us all the time for our best students. When bad weather hits, shops need help due to fender-benders and other damage as a result of the weather, and insurance companies need estimators. Most students don’t realize they might start as an estimator making $30-45,000 with the possibility to grow to $80,000. In a collision repair shop, they may start out at $10 per hour prepping parts, but as their skill level increases, they can make well over $20 per hour.

Q: What kind of student does well in Collision Repair?

A: People who do the best are those who know how to use tools or have the drive to finish something they start. They have a good work ethic and good eye-hand coordination. We often see people who are stuck in a “filler job,” working at something they don’t want to do long term. Collision repair is a great career choice, and many take classes while they work part or even full time to pay the bills.

Q: Talk about the Collision Repair facilities.

A: We have a state-of-the-art space in the Parkhill Applied Technology Center here at Parkland. We train students for the workplace setting, so we have top-notch paint booths and frame machines. Our measuring systems use computer-guided technology, one with an articulating arm and the other with lasers for precise measurements. We purchased the same type of equipment used in local shops so when students are employed they will already be familiar with these types of systems. Our bumper repair includes a nitrogen plastic welder, which is newer technology that insurance companies are requiring of shops to stay up to date.

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A vehicle awaits its paint job.

Q: What is the most popular aspect of the program among students?

A: Students are always anxious to start refinishing in the paint booth. That’s a fun part of the curriculum for many.

Q: How does someone get started in Collision Repair?

A: We have a new program starting in the spring semester, so students don’t have to wait to get started on a new career path. Visit our website and contact our program manager, David Anderson at est@parkland.edu.