Award-Winning Female I-CAR Instructor Teaches How to Manage Quality Vehicle Repairs at SEMA
Written by Stacey Phillips, Autobody News
Published Nov. 7, 2022
Jaime Shewbridge, an instructor for the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR), recently shared her industry knowledge at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV.
Over three days, she taught technicians how to best manage quality vehicle repairs as part of the I-CAR credited course, “Coordinate the Repair Process.”
Shewbridge is the first woman to have received three of I-CAR’s highest honors, including the Founder’s Ring Award in 2003, the Lon Baudoux Instructor of the Year Award in 2020 for the Northwest Region and the Johnny Dickerson Welding Award the following year.
“My fiancé, Patrick, and I share a blended family of eight daughters,” said Shewbridge. “To be able to tell them that I am the first female to win these awards was one of my proudest moments.”
Growing up in Maryland, Shewbridge always planned to work in the computer science field. Instead, she was hired to assist at a collision repair shop office while in high school and found she really enjoyed it. Over the next five years, she was promoted to customer service representative (CSR), parts person, assistant body shop manager and then general manager.
“It was amazing to me how the techs could take something that was destroyed and put it back together,” said Shewbridge. “Even at 46, I am still amazed at the unbelievable talent body techs and painters have.”
While working at the shop, Shewbridge realized there was a lot of information she didn’t know.
“I learned quickly that I better understand what I am looking at when I go into a shop, especially being female,” she recalled. “In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, there were not as many females in our industry.”
In 1998, she was recruited by an insurance company and worked as an appraiser, inspector, supervisor and team manager over the next 24 years. Meanwhile, she attended every training class she could.
She became an I-CAR instructor in 1999 and, after a break, returned in 2013. The following year, she was named I-CAR Maryland state chairman. Currently, Shewbridge teaches welding and hands-on skills development in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Delaware.
“The best part of being an instructor for me is seeing that the student noticed something different or learned something new,” said Shewbridge. “Helping technicians elevate the quality of repairs allows them to provide for their families and create a safer repair. Even if just one person survives a subsequent loss, it makes it all worth it.”
In addition to her role at I-CAR, Shewbridge is a post-secondary adjunct faculty instructor for Prince George's Community College's collision repair program in Maryland. She also serves as an equipment trainer for Capital Collision Equipment, a Chief distributor based out of that same state.
Early on, Shewbridge said she realized the importance of continuous learning. “It's easy to think you have an adequate knowledge base and become satisfied,” said Shewbridge. “I learned that if I was comfortable, I wasn't learning."
She attributes her success to having a very supportive family, as well as those she has met and encouraged her to keep learning and being uncomfortable.
“I am grateful to this industry, which has provided for my family and me for over 30 years now,” she said. “So many people have taken time to encourage me, challenge me, teach me, and in the beginning, take a chance that a young female could make it in this industry. This industry needs people, and if you want to be successful in any area of this industry, you can. Just stay uncomfortable.”
As a proponent for a skilled workforce, Shewbridge has been the SkillsUSA Baltimore regional chairperson for collision repair and automotive refinishing since 2014 and the Maryland SkillsUSA chairperson for collision repair since 2015.
Her daughter, Caite, is a two-time gold award recipient for Maryland in automotive refinishing and estimating and assists with the competition.
“Without industry involvement, the competition can't work,” she noted. “Our state collision repair, automotive refinishing, and estimating competitions are completely self-funded.”
In addition to the core base of people who support SkillsUSA each year, Shewbridge is looking for additional donors to supply paint, tools, measuring systems, pulse welders, computer estimating systems and vehicles.
She is also demonstrating her support of vocational school training by working with the Maryland Department of Education chair this year to coordinate an in-service day for collision repair instructors.
The event allows educators to meet area recruiters for MSOs and local shop owners. It also helps increase the number of contacts they can reach out to when it is time to place their students.
“We hope to bring in new technology and equipment, as well as what training is out there they can use in their daily classes.”
Shewbridge encourages the industry to find ways to get involved and help it grow.
“We have schools that need equipment, materials, vehicles to work on, industry people to help with mock interviews or just come in to talk to students and give new perspectives on the industry and explain what a great living working in this industry can provide,” she said. “It will take all of us to help train and keep the next generation of technicians---the future of our industry.”
With the great need for technicians, Shewbridge said most people don’t consider women when they think of the collision repair process.
“We need to change that,” she said. “If we truly want to bring new people into this industry, we need to start calling elementary and middle schools and asking them to participate in career days.”
She recommends shops get the word out early and often that the automotive industry is a great career.
“We need to encourage them earlier to look at a skilled trade as a viable career path where they can thrive and create a life they are proud of,” she added.