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Chatting with a Champ: Gold medal auto body student Abigail King sits down with CRM

Toronto, Ontario — Canada’s roster for the upcoming WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition is growing by the day, and Collision Repair has been catching up with the young tradespeople set to represent the industry on the world stage within the next few months.

This time, we spoke with Abigail King, 20, an auto body repair student currently splitting her time between studies at Fanshawe College in London Ont. and work at a local TD auto insurance centre.

CRM: In May, you competed at the SkillsCanada National competition in Vancouver in the post-secondary auto body repair category. How did it go?

AK: I placed first. It was actually pretty great. I was competing against two other people, one from Alberta and another from Quebec. The first day I repaired a large aluminum dent on a fender, a small aluminum dent on a hood. Then I had to do a bumper repair that was about a two-inch cut. I also did some measuring; we used a tram gauge to measure the top and bottom points, and then we checked those points with the Car-o-Liner system.

The second day I did a lower A-pillar replacement which went pretty well.

CRM: What did you take away from the competition? Did you meet any interesting people?

AK: There were actually quite a few reps there from Car-o-Liner and Snap-on who were really good to talk to. One Snap-on rep was actually a former competitor—he competed on both the painting and collision side of the events, which was interesting to hear about.

CRM: What got you interested in competing?

AK: I was in the [auto body repair] techniques program at Fanshawe College. Usually, they choose apprentices to compete, but they didn’t have enough this year, so they were keeping a close eye on all the students in the techniques classroom and I just so happened to be chosen. It was pretty cool.

CRM: Did you face any unexpected challenges at the competition?

AK: Definitely the A-pillar replacement. We never got around to doing that at school. I’ve only drilled out the spot welds at school, so I went into that completely blind. I had never looked at an OEM spec sheet, nothing like that.

Same with that small aluminum dent on the hood; we thought that I would have access to the underside to use a hammer and dolly, but they changed that so we had to use the aluminum ProSpot system, which I have also never used before.

CRM: How did you deal with using equipment you had never worked with before?

AK: It wasn’t as bad as you might think. The technical chairs went through it thoroughly with us on how to use everything. They did one-on-one demonstrations and if you were using the equipment wrong they would correct you.

CRM: What are you ultimately hoping to get out of the experience of competing?

AK: I get kind of nervous when people watch me do my thing, so I hope this will get me more used to that. It’s also a good networking experience to meet all these new people and seeing their techniques, because different places have different ways of doing things, so I think that will be pretty neat to see.

CRM: Do you have a message for any other young people who may be considering a career in the auto body trades?

AK: I would say just go for it. I came from pre-health sciences. I took that before getting into the auto body techniques course at Fanshawe and I love it. I didn’t enjoy the health science route, but the teachers have been fantastic and the learning just never stops. Everything is always changing in the automotive industry, so just go for it, I say.

CRM: What got you interested in the trades?

AK: I just figured I didn’t want to be stuck doing a job where everything is the same constantly. I like having a job where it’s like, “Oh hey, I’m doing this today,” and then something completely different tomorrow.

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