TSC’s auto body graduate’s future refurbished

It’s been more than six years since Alonso Alonso made the decision to enroll at Texas Southmost College – a decision he said has turned his life around.

The auto body repair student said he has been blessed with a job since before graduating with his certificate in 2015.

“I found out I was good at auto body repair and refurbishing at a young age working with my father and brothers,” said the 36-year-old. “So, following in their footsteps seems like the right thing to do. Except I always knew I wanted a college education too, so being able to combine both at TSC has helped make my dreams come true.”

Alonso now works as an estimator at CARSTAR Collision Specialists, a step up from the odd jobs he worked prior to enrolling at TSC.

“Some of my skills were self-taught, but nothing prepared me for a career more than TSC’s Auto Body Repair program,” he said. “It opened my eyes to new processes, new techniques and new opportunities.”

One of those opportunities was an internship with Tipotex Chevrolet in Brownsville where he learned the ins and outs of the industry.

“I gained a new kind of confidence being able to use real-world scenarios to practice my skills,” said Alonso. “Without this program I wouldn’t be where I am today – in a career that I love, a career I look forward to every morning. To me this is success, and I found it at TSC.”

A bonus for Alonso and any student in TSC’s Auto Body Repair program is the hands-on training they receive in the classroom and at their internship sites that not only prepares them to be workforce ready, but also to pass the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certification exams.

I-CAR is an internationally known not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs, and like Alonso, students can earn two or more certifications through this organization upon graduation.

Donald Wilt, TSC Auto Body Repair program coordinator and instructor said students in the program get to train and practice their skills using industry-standard equipment and tools, by completing projects using student and community volunteer vehicles and having the opportunity to use a dedicated paint booth that is installed in the college’s auto body shop.

“Each of our graduates is trained and has the skills needed to be hired as entry-level technicians,” said Wilt. “The demand for technicians is high right now, and our students, with their skills and additional I-CAR certifications, are marketable and competitive.”

Wilt added, “From body repair and metal and steel welding to frame mechanics and inspection, our graduates are exposed to the foundation of this industry. It’s a large industry with room to grow and earn salary increases, and with our instruction and their skills being reinforced by I-CAR and our industry partners, the sky is the limit.”

TSC’s Auto Body Repair program holds a 95% job placement rate and is also a part of TSC’s new Prior Learning Assessment program, meaning students can apply to get college credit for their work experience if they’ve already worked in industry.

As for Alonso, he said he’s excited to see where his career takes him, but for now he is happy to share his experiences with other TSC students.

“I’ve been back to TSC to mentor other auto body students,” he said. “I want to let them know that if this program can change my life, it can change theirs too. I owe so much to this program and TSC.”

For more information about TSC’s Auto Body Repair program, visit tsc.edu.