With retirement nearing, auto restoration could be grad’s next career

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August 21, 2018
It’s all about turning rust into gold.
That’s a phrase Norman Stevens used a few times as he described Lakeland College’s street rod technologies (SRT) program.
A member of the Class of 2018, Stevens took a leave from his job with Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AIT) to complete the eight-month program at the college’s Energy Park Site near Lloydminster. The 56-year-old has always had an interest in restoring older vehicles. What he didn’t have was the know-how.
“I have a ’58 Cadillac at home that I’ve been working on for a few years by myself but I lacked the skills and knowledge. That’s why I took this program,” he says.
To be successful in the SRT program, it doesn’t matter your age, gender or skill set. What matters, says Stevens, is that you have a keen interest in older vehicles.
“The instructors Stu (Ribey) and Matt (Newman) will take care of the rest. They have all the patience in the world and they're here to coach and see us through our frustrating moments. They are awesome. As long as you have the interest and passion, the skills will come,” he says.
The SRT curriculum covers topics such as frames, welding, advanced sheet metal shaping, body assembly, custom paint techniques and more. Getting older vehicles running safely and back on the road is the focus. “I did my research on the curriculum and knew SRT was a good fit for me. I came in knowing what the program was about and it offered everything I needed to learn,” says Stevens.
Students can bring a vehicle to work on during the program and perfect the skills they learn in class. Stevens’ project car was a 1977 red Mercedes 450 SLC, a classic vehicle he acquired in a trade for a boat he rarely used.
“The car runs great but (it had) lots of cosmetic fatigue, lots of neglect. You don’t really know what’s in that car until you start cutting it. There are lots of surprises along the way,” says Stevens. “I put in a couple of hundred hours of work, cutting out rusty floor panels and rocker panels. I spent a week on the trunk cutting out rust and putting in new metal.”
He’s finishing the car’s bodywork at home in his shop near Lac La Biche. “I lack a lot of tools at home but thanks to this program I know what equipment and tools I need.”
Stevens learned a lot not only from his instructors and working on his Mercedes, but also from the other students and their projects. “You can compare notes and check on each other’s progress. It’s fun watching everyone’s skills develop. The growth and development over the eight months is amazing.”
Now back in his job with AIT, Stevens expects to restore vehicles full-time at some point in the future.
“We’ll see what the future brings. I’m young at heart so, with reasonably early retirement, auto restoration could be my next career. Whether I’m working for someone else or working for myself, I see myself getting my auto body ticket and carrying on with my passion.”
And hopefully turning a lot more rust into gold.
Photo: As a street rod technologies graduate, Norman Stevens is ready to finish working on his '77 Mercedes and '58 Cadillac, among other vehicles.
Video: Norman Stevens discusses what street rod technologies is to him. This video is one of a four-part series, to watch the ​full series visit our videos page.
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Agribusiness Class of 2006

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Vice President, Environmental Services, Vertex.

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Business studies, Class of 2016.

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2nd year UT student, 2017-18

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Class of 2016, Interior Design student.

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Animal Health Technology, Class of 2016.

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Animal Science & Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

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Lakeland College was a learning environment unlike any other school. It allows students to learn beyond the classroom, and staff and faculty genuinely want to see students succeed. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable asking questions and where everyone has a place and fits in.

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Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

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The instructors were the highlight of my time at Lakeland. It made a huge impact on my college experience to have instructors who challenged, encouraged, and believed in me.

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Child & Youth Care, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
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Interior Design Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I just feel like you get the best education at Lakeland, especially from the time that the instructors can actually spend with you. I like the class sizes too – everything’s been great about my Lakeland experience.

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Heavy Equipment Technician, Class of 2016.

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I do give Lakeland College credit for reigniting my interest and even preparing me for Miss Rodeo Canada. Lakeland helped me to grow enough to have the confidence to think I could take on that role and become that person. I think that I have and I am really grateful for that

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Agribusiness, class of 2014, former Miss Rodeo Canada.

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Real Estate Appraisal and Assessment, Class of 2016.

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Accounting Major, Class of 2016.

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Esthetician, Class of 2016.

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The professors care so much about their students at Lakeland and are able to know each and every one of them by name, so much so that they are able to nominate a ton of students for awards.

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University Transfer, Class of 2016.

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They really put you in the lead at Lakeland. Lakeland cares about its students, empowers them, and gives them opportunities to achieve their goals. I don’t see Lakeland as a stepping stone or a first step – I see it as a bridge and an integral part of my education.

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University Transfer, Class of 2017.

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Real estate appraisal and assessment, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
In the campus spa, they give you time to work with each client so nothing is rushed and you’re able to concentrate on providing the best service you can to your client.

– Daphney Couturier

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
It’s going to be a lot easier to start our first jobs having this experience and having been able to build our confidence in the campus spa. I love that we get to have this opportunity.

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Esthetician, Class of 2017.

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Key Account Manager – Western Canada Arysta LifeScience