University of the Fraser Valley

UFV student loves breaking down barriers for women in trades

UFV student loves breaking down barriers for women in trades

Julia Nunes has been working on the restoration of a vintage Chevrolet truck at the UFV Trades and Technology Centre on the Chilliwack campus.

First-year UFV student Julia Nunes is a competitive person, and when the opportunity arose to prove her mettle in a provincial trades competition, she jumped at the chance. Nunes will test her skills in autobody repair at the Skills Canada BC 30th Annual Provincial Trades and Technology Competition, taking place April 17 at the Abbotsford Tradex, and she can’t wait.

“All I know is that we do a little bit of every part of our trade,” Nunes says. “We’re doing plastic repair. We’re fixing a fender. I know I’ll be facing people who’ve been doing this for a lot longer than I have, so I’m not expecting to win. But it would be fun if I do, and I’m so excited to see what happens.”

The graduate of Chilliwack’s Unity Christian School says a lifelong passion for classic cars motivated her to enroll in UFV’s Autobody program last September, and that’s where she’s been honing the skills that will help her at provincials. She spends her days at the UFV Chilliwack Trades and Technology Centre, working on a passion project she brought from home.

Nunes purchased a 1981 Chevy truck in Merritt last October. She also bought a 1987 for parts, and since then she’s been working on restoring the mechanical parts at home, and the body at school.

“I always wanted a square-body truck with a bench seat,” she says. “I don’t know why, but I’ve known that since I was seven years old, watching garage shows where they were always restoring those square bodies. The fine edges and sharp body lines, and the way the paint looks so nice and clean, there’s just something about them.

“I know what this one’s going to look like when I’m done, and I’m so impatient to see it.”

Nunes dreams of starting her own full time car restoration business. Her program is at UFV is Automotive Collision Repair and Refinish. She’s currently working towards a Red Seal in refinishing (painting), and she’ll eventually target the same in automotive collision repair.

Julia Nunes wears her custom-blinged respirator while working in the shop.

Nunes has always loved working with her hands, and the detail involved in autobody repair is appealing. When she’s deep into her work she describes the feeling of driving late at night to the tune of the perfect song.

“You’re almost lost in the music,” she muses.

The atmosphere at provincials will be less relaxed. Nunes will have the pressure of a clock timing her as she competes, but she says she does well under the gun.

“That actually makes it better for me,” she says with a smile. “I’m pretty chill about stuff. I don’t get nervous for tests and things like that. If anything, I think being timed will make it a lot more fun for me.”

Provincials represents an opportunity for Nunes to represent women in trades. She expects to get side-eyed by people who don’t expect a female to be competing in autobody repair, and she looks forward to opening some eyes.

“I’m excited to see the looks on some faces when they see a young girl walking into this competition,” Nunes says. “I like to break the standard, and we have some amazing women in UFV trades who do it with me. And the guys I work with at UFV are super supportive of us, but I do expect to get those looks at provincials, and that excites me because when somebody thinks I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it more.”