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Women finding their place in car repair

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Three women have carved a niche for themselves in Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Automotive Industry Management program. In a field once dominated by men, these women are still the minority amidst 100 students enrolled in the automotive program.

Cathi Robbe, assistant professor, said she would like to see more women enrolled in the program. Last year’s program enrolled a total of five female students, the highest number since the program began. Robbe said she has contacted local high schools in an effort to boost awareness of the program among young women and perhaps recruit a few who would like to earn a degree in the automotive field.

The AIM program is a great opportunity for women since it has a 97 percent employment rate, with most of the students finding jobs before graduation, Robbe said. The program prepares students for jobs in auto repair as well as management.

Lori Fields, sophomore, said she is working to earn her bachelors degree in automotive with a minor in business. She plans to use her degree to open her own business.

She said she will buy pre-owned vehicles from auctions or junkyards, repair them herself, then resell them. Fields said she initially enrolled in the program because she “just likes working on cars.”

Senior Wei Yun said she wanted to work on cars in order to help her fellow human being. She said Paul Sefcovic, former associate professor in the AIM program, taught her that auto repair is more than just working on cars, it’s about serving people.

“Automotive is just a way to use the gifts we are given by God to serve people,” Yun said.

Jamie Richey, junior, said she decided she wanted to break through the glass ceiling in automotive. She was working in the field, mainly in auto body repair, when she realized she could go no further without a degree.

She enrolled in Front Range Community College, where she earned her two-year degree before transferring to CSU-Pueblo. Richey said she would like to get a secondary degree in geology so she can help find a way to make cars more environmentally friendly.

As a woman, Richey is a minority, but she said it is to her benefit. Many companies are trying to fill positions with minorities to make them seem more ethical. She believes women can do the job as well as a man could, especially with today’s technology.

“You do not need muscles to wrench with the right tools and leverage,” Richey said.

The women said the men in the program are always respectful and willing to help out if needed, except when it comes to the Women’s AutoRobics program presented at least twice a semester. The AutoRobics is a fundraiser run by women from the program to teach other women how to take care of their own cars.

The most recent AutoRobics was held last Saturday, with a turn-out of one. Tanya Baird, internship coordinator with the Career Center, had the floor with four teachers showing her how to check her fluids and tire pressure, how to change a flat tire and how to keep herself safe to and from her car.

AutoRobics is just one of many fundraisers the program runs to raise money for cars to learn on and for in-class tools. The students from the program also run a golf tournament, a car show and a Tune-Up Clinic scheduled this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.