BEAVERTON, Ore. – It took recent Portland Community College graduate Kevan Banngertir more than a decade to finally discover what he called “the different side of college.” The side for people who prefer physical, hands-on learning, solving technical puzzles, and the rewarding, high-demand professions that training can lead to.
After multiple educational and professional attempts, the 33-year-old found his true calling with PCC’s Auto Collision Repair Technology Program, earning his associates degree this past June and being hired immediately by one of the nation’s largest repair companies, Crash Champions Collision Repair Team.
And though he’s always been a car enthusiast, the Beaverton resident said he didn’t have much prior knowledge about the trades and, as a result, hadn’t considered the possibility of a career doing this type of work. Instead he tried a few different academic and career paths, but nothing felt right.
Searching for a professional change in his life, he came across PCC's program and, for the first time, found a bridge from his personal passion to a lasting career.
“It just clicked and I thought, ‘this is something I can retire with,’” Banngertir said.
“I’ve grown the most in this program versus any other academic avenue I’ve tried to take.”
The Auto Collision Repair Technology Program prepares technicians like Banngertir for a respected and rewarding career field. The Oregon Employment Department forecasts Portland area employment for auto collision repair technicians will grow 7.3% through 2027. Experienced technicians can expect a salary of $50,000 to $80,000 with many making considerably more.
Since its establishment in 1970, the program has grown into one of the largest and most reputable ones on the West Coast. Faculty guide students through class projects that help them understand the most current industry practices. Class sizes range from 10 to 20 students and are held in a 17,000-square-foot body shop at the Rock Creek Campus in Washington County.
Banngertir’s journey required unique persistence, however. He was one of just eight, from an original cohort of more than 20 students, who returned to the program in the summer of 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the PCC shop’s closure for 15 months.
Faculty member Erik Peterson, an industry veteran and graduate of the PCC program himself, said Banngertir’s dedication to the craft stood out as the pandemic wore so many others down.
“Kevan is one of the most proficient, determined, and successful students I’ve ever had,” he said. “His excitement for learning this craft fueled my enthusiasm and was encouraging in a symbiotic way.”
While he would have liked to discover this path sooner, Banngertir said he hopes his story inspires others to consider the different roads to a meaningful educational experience and lasting career.
“I’m pretty proud to have been able to find a career that fit me, and I’m excited to take it to the next level.”
The Auto Collision Repair Program is part of PCC’s Construction, Manufacturing Tech, and Transportation Academic Pathway. The pathway attracts students who like to work with their hands, or enjoy constructing, repairing, and maintaining buildings, systems and technology. Learn more: pcc.edu/programs/#/construction/