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Launching a third career through the apprenticeship program

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Dec 17, 2020

28-year-old Ingleside native Olivia Peterson is no stranger to higher education, nor starting a new career. After graduating high school, she pursued a bachelor’s, and then a master’s, in music with the goal of becoming a professional classical musician. It’s a world she’s been a part of most of her life, even participating in the College of Lake County (CLC) Wind Ensemble when she was about 12 years old. However, preparing for the career, and actually taking part in it, ended up being two very different things. 

Photo of Olivia Peterson“Once I got out into the real world, I was having a little trouble finding work and I ended up working in a library to make ends meet,” said Peterson who turned the job into a true second career which included more education. “I got a master’s degree in library science and found myself in the same situation where the prospects weren’t really great.” 

Here she was, a woman in her mid-twenties with two master’s degrees and a future which remained unclear. Then COVID-19 settled into society and her librarian job turned virtual, further compelling her to find her next, and hopefully more permanent, career.  

“I read a story about a woman who, like me, was educated in a different field but really wanted to make an impact for women. She decided to start a new career as a mechanic, opened her own shop and she employs all female mechanics,” said Peterson (right). “I was so inspired. I knew that CLC had an automotive program. Then I got the college’s mailer and when I flipped it open, serendipitously right there was a picture of a young woman buffing a classic car and it said come join one of our apprenticeship programs. I was sold.” 

Olivia PetersonPeterson enrolled in one of the first classes of CLC apprentices and began her studies in collision repair under the program’s “learn and earn” model. After eight weeks learning in the college’s auto shop, she was interviewed and then hired by an employer partner, Gerber Collision & Glass in Crystal Lake, to begin the earning portion of the program.

Photo: Peterson works on a car at Gerber Collision & Glass under the supervision of a professional mentor

Olivia Peterson“The first day she was sanding down a bumper and getting it ready for painting and I was blown away,” said Gerber Collision & Glass manager Steve Kispetik. “When she started here, she had only finished eight weeks at CLC, so I was pretty impressed by how much she’s already learned.” 

While CLC’s program is new for Kispetik’s shop, the apprenticeship idea is not. His company began their own version, called the Technician Development Program, two years prior and has already seen the success it can bring. What’s more, he says the timing couldn’t be better for apprentices like Peterson as the growth potential in the industry is about to boom. 

Gerber Collision“We need to make sure we’re training people now and getting people ready to come into this field because we have people leaving and retiring. The need is there,” said Kispetik. “The average body man in a shop right now is 56 years old. It seems, compared to 20 years ago, there aren’t a lot of people that even know about this career and its opportunities.”

Photo: CLC apprenticeship partner Gerber Collision & Glass in Crystal Lake
Olivia Peterson
After two career attempts which ultimately lacked that long-term potential, Peterson is excited about where she’s ended up. That said, she’s not going to let her previous education go to waste. In fact, she fully expects her artistic training to influence her collision repair career. 

“They’re actually not as unrelated as you would think. Body repair requires a really high degree of attention to detail, and classical music and librarianship both use that skill,” said Peterson. “There’s also an artistry aspect as you’re removing dents, shaping body fillers and bringing cars back to the way they were pre-collision. I am having so much fun. I am finally in a situation where I can say, I just want to be at work.”  

About CLC’s Apprenticeship Program: 

Started in Aug. 2020, CLC’s apprenticeship program is a structured “Learn and Earn” curriculum which combines job related classroom learning along with structured on–the-job training guided by a mentor. These programs offer employers the opportunity to strengthen and build their workforce by developing a tailored high-quality talent pipeline. The goal for apprenticeship programs is to provide workers with a set of skills that meet the specific needs of local employers using a flexible learning approach. Currently the college offers apprenticeships in six fields of interest: automotive, business, healthcare, horticulture, information technology and manufacturing. 

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation. Learn more at or call (847) 543-2000. 

About The Boyd Group Inc.: 

The Boyd Group Inc. (the “Company”) is one of the largest operators of non-franchised collision repair centers in North America in terms of number of locations and sales. The Company operates in Canada under the trade names Boyd Autobody & Glass ( and Assured Automotive (, as well as in the U.S. under the trade name Gerber Collision & Glass ( In addition, the Company is a major retail auto glass operator in the U.S. with operations under the trade names Gerber Collision & Glass, Glass America, Auto Glass Service, Auto Glass Authority and The Company also operates a third-party administrator, Gerber National Claim Services (“GNCS”), that offers glass, emergency roadside and first notice of loss services. For more information on The Boyd Group Inc. or Boyd Group Services Inc., please visit our website at (