(WACO, Texas) – For Texas State Technical College student Haley Rios of Bryan, auto collision and repair work is a family tradition.
Her grandfather used to own a paint and body shop where several relatives worked. She would go to the shop as a child and watch repair work being done.
“It was nice,” Rios said. “I liked it.”
Rios took automotive classes in high school and learned about brake repair, oil changes, shocks, struts and other vehicle components. When it came time to select a college after high school, Rios chose TSTC’s Waco campus, which her father also attended.
Rios said she has enjoyed learning about different painting techniques and how vehicles are put together.
“The time spent out here (at TSTC) is actually working,” she said. “I am a hands-on learner.”
Rios will start work at Caliber Collision in Bryan after graduating in December from TSTC. She is a candidate for Associate of Applied Science degrees in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Refinishing Specialization and Auto Collision and Management Technology – Repair Specialization.
Rios’ advice for women interested in pursuing the auto collision and repair industry is simple.
“Go for it, and ignore what everyone says,” she said.
Jannifer Stimmel, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program, said women should pursue the field because it is fulfilling and rewarding.
“Women are very successful in this industry because many women are detail oriented,” she said. “That is a huge asset in our field because in our industry, details play a huge role. Auto collision requires such specifics, whether it be finding the smallest scratch, choosing the correct tint for paint matching, finding hidden damage, identifying flaws in welds — you name it and it applies to some aspect of this industry.”
Stimmel did not have Rios in classes, but did teach Emma Espinoza, who is scheduled to graduate from the program in December.
“She (Emma) was the top performer in her class, along with another female student that was there at the time,” Stimmel said.
Espinoza grew up in Leander and now lives in Liberty Hill. She is a candidate for graduation at TSTC for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Refinishing Specialization.
Espinoza took automotive tech classes for three years but wanted to do something using her creative side.
“I had no clue about what I wanted to do,” she said.
She was invited to tour TSTC by her boyfriend, Burke Anderson, who is in TSTC’s Automotive Technology – Toyota T-Ten Specialization program. Once she visited the Auto Collision and Management Technology program, she knew what she wanted to do.
“It’s been pretty fun,” Espinoza said. “I stayed quiet at first, but you get used to being around guys.”
Espinoza said she has enjoyed learning about airbrushing and working with vehicle panels.
After graduation, Espinoza wants to work in custom repair in the Austin area.
Jobs for automotive body and related repairers are projected to be at 159,000 in 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers will be needed to fill positions as people retire or transition into other occupations, according to the agency.
In Texas, there were 11,000 automotive body and related repairers earning an annual mean wage of $45,720 in May 2019, according to the labor statistics agency.
Registration continues for the spring semester. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go tstc.edu.