A panel discussion, focused on making training programs and workplaces more welcoming to everyone, including women and other underrepresented groups, kicked off the in-person ASE Instructor Training Conference held earlier this month in Frisco, Texas.
The keynote panel discussion, entitled the “The 2 Percent Solution," featured several female automotive service professionals, students, and instructors.
“We had great expectations for our panel, and it exceeded everything we had hoped for,” said Mike Coley, president, ASE Education Foundation. “We had a frank and honest discussion on how we can increase the number of female service technicians and how to make females feel more welcome in schools and in the workforce. I cannot thank the panelists enough for sharing the challenges they have faced in school and in the industry, and how they have created opportunities for themselves to be successful professionals.”
The keynote session was moderated by Catherine “Cat” Treanor, UK business development manager for Electude. The other panelists included:
- Missy Albin, Navistar master diesel mechanic, Taylor & Lloyd, Inc.
- Lou Bramante, automotive instructor, Vineland Senior High School.
- Raven Hartkopf, collision discipline lead, Colin College.
- Jenny Kovacs, Ford master technician, C. Harper Ford.
- Joe Laubhan, service director, Classic Chevrolet.
- Vanessa Retsos, Chevrolet service technician, Classic Chevrolet.
- Paulina Sanchez, shop owner and collision repair student at Colin College.
“We have a shortage of technicians, an aging workforce, a negative stereotype, a lack of new talent and a tidal wave of new technology,” said Treanor. “The answers to all these challenges is diversity. We need diversity of gender, ethnicity, of age, physical attributes and more.”
The discussion focused on some of the challenges that females face in school and in the workplace, including the perception of not being able to do the job, not be taken seriously, being stereotyped into a certain job, trying to get that first job and the lack of support from others.
The panel and the audience provided suggestions to help increase the number of females in schools. The ideas included increasing shadowing opportunities, giving high school students the option to explore automotive classes to see if they like them, providing facts to potential students about the advantages of the industry and financial benefits they could achieve, creating a safe environment for students, eliminating the term non-traditional, and working with administrators and counselors to encourage female students to participate in automotive programs.
“The only way we can solve things as an industry is if we work together,” said Coley. “Everyone who attended our panel wants to increase diversity in the workforce and work on solutions to increase the number of females attending tech schools and taking automotive classes in high school. Our goal is to build the next generation of our industry and make industry educational opportunities available to everyone.”