For Immediate Release
Contact: Kim Schmelz, External Relations & Alumni Development
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: February 28, 2020
Southwest Tech alumnus earns success in auto body industryFennimore -
Jason Garfoot, a 2002 graduate of the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College auto collision repair and refinish technician program always had an interest in cars and mechanics. “The American Chopper TV show was really popular when I was in high school and it really got me interested in working on and painting cars and motorcycles.
Garfoot said he moved around quite a bit as a kid but was able to spend all four years of high school at Seneca High School. He heard about Southwest Tech from some the students in the grades above him who were planning to attend the college. Garfoot’s goal was to graduate with a bachelor’s degree but he decided he would attend Southwest Tech for the auto body certificate program and then work in a body shop while continuing his education.
“The auto collision repair and refinish program was excellent,” said Garfoot. “I was in Greg Wubben’s first class and he was phenomenal. He connected with me and my classmates, he got us out of the classroom to see the profession in action and I loved to learn from him.” Following graduation from the certification program, Garfoot took a summer class in mechanics taught by Dan Schildgen. “Coupling that with what I just learned in that one year program really positioned me very well,” he said.
The following fall Garfoot started in the mechanical engineering degree program at UW-Platteville, still a little unsure of what he wanted to do. After two years in that program he transferred to UW-Eau Claire to study ecology and environmental biology. When Garfoot moved to Eau Claire there was a job open for an auto body tech at ABRA so he was able to do just what he planned and work almost full-time while in school.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree ABRA offered Garfoot two different positions, he could either become the head painter or take a management position. Garfoot was passionate about painting so he picked the head painter position. In the summer, when work in the body shop was slower he used his bachelor’s degree to work a second job surveying lakes and water testing and writing lake management programs.
While at ABRA, Garfoot started working with a new paint booth that had been designed and purchased through Global Finishing Solutions (GFS). “I had to make some tweaks so it was more efficient,” he said. I started changing things around in the booth and the GFS representatives started asking more about what I was doing and how it was helping.” Eventually that led to GFS seeking to hire a painter on their staff to improve their product and so Garfoot applied and was hired on as a technical advisor. “I’ve started a training division at GFS where I’ve been able to use my certificate and my bachelor’s degree plus the experience I gained at UW-Platteville to design equipment, train on the automotive side and help all major paint companies and end user customers of GFS to be more efficient and be set up for success,” said Garfoot.
In addition to Garfoot’s work in the training division he’s been able to do a lot of work with Mike Anderson, the president and owner of Collision Advice, a well-known consulting company for the auto body/collision repair industry. Garfoot has also written for several trade magazines and also partners with all major paint companies on their paint certification classes. Garfoot also talked about his experience working with Jim and Mike Ring, co-founders of Ringbrothers. For those not familiar with the Ringbrothers they are known for building muscle cars. They’ve appeared on “Jay Leno’s Garage” and “Battle of the Builders.” Their work is highly regarded in the industry, showcased on the covers and homepages of a number of magazines. “They are super down to earth and we hit it off right away,” said Garfoot. Garfoot and the Ring brothers decided to host a session together at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) conference together. “It’s fun to share their story with young people,” said Garfoot. “These guys came from very humble beginnings and have become very successful.” Garfoot said they like to showcase what a lucrative career path this can be. “There’s so many opportunities. I never thought an auto collision and repair degree would expose me to so much. I travel 150 days of the year, I’ve been to every state in North America except for three and I travel frequently to our training center in Italy,” he said.
Garfoot went on to say, “learning and teaching have always been an interest of mine. I learn something every day and I am grateful for the amazing instruction I had throughout my education. Greg and Dan were some of the best instructors I have ever had. They are great at connecting with their students, and the way they teach only expanded my passion for the industry and gave me all the tools necessary to be successful not just in the automotive field, but in other areas of my life as well,” he said. “I knew if I could communicate, listen, and connect with people the way that they do, that I could be successful. I owe most of my success to great teachers and mentors that I have been able to learn from. My education has been my backbone for success and Southwest Tech was great place to build that foundation and start my future path.”
Photos: Left: Jason is teaching airbrush techniques to a local student. Below: Jason working with the Ringbrothers team on paint details.