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Female student learning the skill of collision repair with the men

Katelyn Boulanger/Selkirk Journal

Amanda Clarke works on repairing a formerly rusty quarter panel at The Heavy's in Selkirk. (Katelyn Boulanger/Selkirk Journal/Postmedia Network)

Amanda Clarke works on repairing a formerly rusty quarter panel at The Heavy's in Selkirk. (Katelyn Boulanger/Selkirk Journal/Postmedia Network)

Amanda Clarke is the first female work placement student The Heavy’s have had in their heavy collision repair and painting shop in Selkirk.

“We have two two-week job placements in the course one in the middle and one at the end. I like to do work on semi-trucks but they don’t have a course on semi-trucks so I came here to work on trucks instead of cars,” Clarke explained.

The Selkirk resident is currently completing the collision repair and refinishing course at Red River College in Winnipeg.

“There’s a big difference between cars and semi-trucks especially the taping and the painting is four cars to one semi,” said Debby Kutcher, who is one of the owners of The Heavy’s.

 Clarke’s placement got underway Feb. 6 and runs until Feb. 17.

“I wish that more students could just come and see the auto body end of it, the boat end of it, the snowmobile end of it, all the plastic repair are things that students don't get to see,” said Kutcher.

Clarke first got the tools of the trade in her hands at the shop before she entered the program at RRC.

“I wasn’t working at the time so I just came in here and helped out and I was just basically volunteering and I came in here every day. I just fell in love with it working with the trucks. Taking something that is smashed up and broken and putting it back to (a point) where it looks beautiful again,” said Clarke.

“At school I learn strictly body work and painting on cars, maybe some pick-up trucks, but mostly cars. Here I’m learning on semi-trucks. We only did a week of plastic welding (in school) and I’m learning to do more plastic welding, powder coating, things that I never even thought of doing,” Clarke continued.

Kutcher wants to emphasize the skills needed to save a customer money by fixing what’s there instead of replacing it and painting.

Both Kutcher and Clarke agreed that having a work placement learning opportunity makes it easier to learn the skills of the trade.

“I find that it’s the only way to learn. We do theory in the morning (in school) for one hour then four hours in the shop. We learn about things and then we do the tests and on the tests I get high marks because it’s so simple but in the shop you are learning with your hands and it’s completely different. . . I find that working with my hands is so different I end up learning better and soaking in more, faster,” Clarke said.

Kutcher wants to promote collision repair to women as a step forward in reaching equality in the work force.

Both women hope that by sharing Clarke’s story they will encourage young women to explore career options in various male dominated fields.

“I like doing this. I work hard and I work with my hands. No one can tell me I can’t do this,” added Clarke.

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