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Hey, girl, your automotive career awaits

I received an email from 15-year-old Kate, who expressed her desire to pursue a career in the automotive world.

She was nonspecific about the exact position she aspired to hold, but she asked my advice on how to infiltrate the industry.

She also asked if I had any regrets about choosing my own career path or the way I went about it all.

Kate’s email is one of countless messages I regularly receive from young girls and women, and even some men, who ask similar questions. I responded to Kate’s email on a episode of the “PowerBlock” package of weekend automotive shows on Spike TV. Because these questions are so prevalent, it’s an interesting topic to at least touch on here.

Growing up in an automotive family, I was fortunate in that I was surrounded by everything automotive since birth. And being a part of that environment all my life I became a genuine enthusiast.

But I actually do have one regret. Although I am pleased with where my career is right now, I truly wish I had enrolled in an automotive tech school at some point to learn engine mechanics and body fabrication. Any knowledge I acquired came from watching the mechanics on my dad’s race team or hanging out with him in the garage. And in recent years I have had the honor of watching and learning from top-level mechanics and fabricators on TLC’s “Overhaulin’ ” TV series and the four “PowerBlock” how-to shows designed for gearheads. I also do a lot of reading, but I never took on any form of tech training, which I really do regret.

Fortunately, however, I can get by without the formal training because my job does not call for me to be an actual mechanic or fabricator by trade. But the education would have given me a more in-depth understanding of it all and the experience to have taken things a step further while working on various automotive TV shows.

After hearing stories from men and women who attended the automotive tech school WyoTech (wyotech.com), which has campuses in different parts of the United States, and seeing firsthand the tremendous skills they acquired, I wish I had taken a year of my life to learn at least the fundamentals of automotive repair and metal fabrication from such an institution.

Not only do I regularly hear phenomenal stories about the experiences graduates have had while attending the school, they are, as a result, stellar craftsmen and women who have all gone on to land sought-after positions at the highest levels in the automotive world.

When I attended the grand opening of WyoTech’s new Long Beach, Calif., campus, I asked about how I could attend school on a part-time basis. My schedule does not allow me much free time, but my desire is genuine: Before my life is over, I’ll do it.

Throughout the past 100 years since the first days of the car, automotive schools were for the mechanic or factory worker, and the rest of us learned to wrench on our rides with dad in the garage. But the variety of automotive jobs has grown. Schools such as WyoTech and Universal Technical Institute (UTI, uticorp.com), for example, offer a huge assortment of programs that cater to niches in the automotive industry, turning out craftsmen in very specific fields beyond wrench-turning and troubleshooting.

The bottom line is that the tools exist to set you on your own path: You just need to know where to look. WyoTech and UTI are good places to at least begin, no matter your gender. Jessi Combs, a young woman who graduated from WyoTech in 2004, was hired by the school to build a custom vehicle to represent the institution at a major auto show. She was also part of the weekend “PowerBlock” family as co-host of “Xtreme 4×4” on Spike. Who would have thought?

The fact that an increasing number of women are passionate about all things automotive and are considering careers in this trade brings a smile to my face.

Before deciding on your specific vocation, however, check out the schools for the programs offered. You might discover an area you never knew existed, such as Motorsports Chassis Fabrication at WyoTech.

There is quite literally a world of opportunity out there in many different fields, but it’s also a highly technical and highly competitive world that requires education.

Automotive technology in modern years has become increasingly complex. It’s no longer simply about tuning a carburetor. If a young woman such as Kate is looking into pursuing a real opportunity in this industry, it’s essential to get formal training, because of the competition in the field and because of the tremendous skills that are required.

In some ways it might seem daunting, but you just have to look at these schools to realize that, man or woman, we live in exciting times. Your career awaits.

Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of her own book, the host of Spike TV’s “PowerBlock,” the former host of TLC’s “Overhaulin’ ” and a writer with Wheelbase Media. You can email her by logging on to www.shiftweekly.com and using the contact form.

 

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