Texas State Technical College alumnus Philip Saldana’s interest in automotive repair was piqued at a young age. That was the starting point that guided him toward a future career path.
Saldana, of Harlingen, earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology from TSTC’s Harlingen campus in December 2019.
He furthered his education by enrolling in the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR). At the program’s completion, he earned two platinum certifications: refinish technician and steel gas metal arc MIG welding.
“I-CAR furthers your education by going into more detail in auto collision,” he said.
After experiencing difficulty securing employment, an opportunity arose with Collision Stop LLC in La Feria.
“When I was hired, I swept their floors,” he said. “I really wanted to gain experience. I eventually transitioned to doing light body work. Then I began to disassemble and reassemble vehicles. I also did paint correction, detailing and buffing. It was a great feeling to know my duties progressed in the first year and a half.”
Aaron Mendez Jr., co-business owner for Auto Collision LLC, said Saldana has been a valuable asset to the automotive shop.
“His desire to learn at the highest level are a couple of attributes that have stood out since the beginning,” Mendez said. “This industry is in desperate need of highly skilled technicians and people who have a great foundation to start from.”
In four years at his place of employment, Saldana has moved up the career ladder and now is an estimator for the parts department.
“If a person is in a car accident, I am the person who meets with you to discuss the details of your accident,” he said. “I do my best to educate the customer about the repair plan. I review certain procedures to ensure their vehicle is fixed properly. Then I communicate with insurance agents and adjusters who wish to discuss people’s vehicle situation.”
Through many on-the-job experiences, Saldana feels most grateful when he can assist an individual in a rough situation.
“Many times, a parent and their children walk into our business with a bad vehicle situation,” he said. “For example, it could be a busted-up quarter panel. Their insurance company mentions it can be repaired for a certain amount of money. I proceed by retrieving facts and position statements from car manufacturers. I will prove to that insurance company why the quarter panel needs to be replaced and not repaired. I feel great knowing that the parent will receive their vehicle back safe and with peace of mind.”
Saldana’s transparency in helping his clients is apparent and demonstrates his success. His long-term goal is to open his own auto collision shop one day.
Automotive body and related repairers can make a yearly median salary of more than $43,000 in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology, with specializations in repair and refinishing, and certificates of completion in Auto Collision Refinishing and Auto Collision Repair.
For more information, visit tstc.edu.