Ever since high school, Bianca Then had always worked in an office. She started as a receptionist, and by the time she was 22, she was already a financial advisor—but something just didn’t feel right.
“I realized that throughout every office job I’d had, the mentality was the same,” she says. “It’s just all drama. And that’s just not what I’m into!”
Then one day, after a particularly bad episode of office politics, Bianca decided it was time for a new career. She first looked at university programs. Psychology interested her; so did programs in Human Resources, but even these left her knowing she’d eventually be back in an office.
Bianca had always enjoyed doing things with her hands, so she decided to try helping out at her uncle’s auto body repair shop, “just to see where it would go.” It wasn’t long before she realized auto collision repair was a perfect fit. “I just fell in love with it,” she says.
Even after realizing what she loved to do, for Bianca, it was still a daunting step to not only return to school, but to enter a highly physical and male-dominated trades program. “I was really nervous,” she admits, “just thinking: what are they going to say, what are they going to think? Are they going to take me seriously or just worry that I might hurt myself?”
Today, after 8 months in VCC’s program (as the only woman in her class) and having just started an apprenticeship sponsored by Craftsman Collision, Bianca is more excited than ever in her new career.
Bianca credits her instructors with creating an atmosphere unlike any she’d ever experienced before—one of friendship, respect and an incredible amount of learning. “They want you to succeed so they’ll do whatever they can to help you get there,” she says.
Now more than ever, Bianca also appreciates the importance of her new field of work. After spending an entire month on safety training, she says the pressure to do the job right becomes quite intense. “We’re not only working with tools that can kill us, we have to do everything correctly because we’re putting someone in that car,” she says. “That’s someone’s life.”
While it’s possible to complete all three levels in succession, VCC instructors encourage students to spend a year in the workplace after each level building practical experience and gathering a large portion of the full 6,750 apprenticeship hours needed to obtain Red Seal certification.
In total, Bianca expects to spend nearly four years as an Automotive Collision Repair apprentice, but is looking forward to every moment. She compares it to a four-year bachelor’s degree. “The difference is I’m getting paid to do this,” she says, smiling. “I won’t be in debt. And I’m never working in an office job ever again!”
VCC’s program offers training in a wide range of skills appropriate to today's advanced automobile collision repair industry. Students who complete the foundation coursework can receive up to a year’s worth of apprenticeship credit and could be eligible for government grants. Learn more at an upcoming info session.