Posted on March 22, 2021

Jolene’s story: making the grade in auto collision and refinishing

Jolene Orr refinishing a car outdoors

It takes years to learn a trade. Most Vancouver Community College (VCC) trades apprentices alternate between studying and on-the-job training for four years before fully starting their careers. It’s a major journey and a huge accomplishment. But what happens next?

After finishing her apprenticeship and earning her Red Seal in 2019, VCC automotive collision and refinishing alumna Jolene Orr began to notice some changes at work. “When you’re an apprentice, you get told to do this or that. Nobody asks for your opinion,” she says. “I went from being just a kid in the shop to having respect.”

Today, working as a painter at New Profession Collision in Richmond, Jolene now finds colleagues turning to her for professional advice on paint colours and finishes. “It surprised me a little bit,” she says.

Jolene Orr with vintage porsche in paint booth

Artistic license

Before entering the automotive collision and refinishing field, Jolene’s main interest was visual art, but career prospects weren’t promising. When her father recommended painting cars, she took an introductory course and loved it immediately. “I painted one bumper and that was it!” she says.

Jolene went on to attend VCC for automotive paint and refinishing apprenticeship training, and was extra pleased with the program’s hands-on learning, great instructors, and solid reputation. Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jolene’s high-calibre skills kept her working. After she was reluctantly let go by a dealership last year, Jolene found her current job right away. “Everyone says the best painters come out of VCC,” she says.

In her new job, Jolene is also happy for the chance to do more custom painting, such as the vintage Porsche 9-11 she got to work on recently (pictured). Looking ahead, Jolene says her future will be all about auto paint, and hopes to someday work as a paint company rep, mixing colours and working on custom projects around the region.

For now, however, Jolene is enjoying her expert status in the shop. For apprentices out there, she says simply doing good work is the best way to earn respect. “Show them you know what you’re doing,” she says. “The proof is in the pudding.”

Jolene Orr in paint booth with black porsche

Discover your future in transportation trades at VCC. Join an upcoming free info session or attend the next Experience VCC virtual open house to learn more.