THE SHOP

September '18

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10 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2018 specialized trade schools like WyoTech are seeing an increase in women enrolling and are adapting their programs to embrace them. Years ago, it was hard to get hired without experience. These days, many companies and shops are offering women on-the-job training and apprenticeships. Chaya Milchein is the service manager at Pep Boys in Waukegan, Illinois. In 2013 she was 18 years old, aging out of foster care and needed a job. During an interview at Sears, the HR manager asked her what department she wanted to work in. "I didn't want to fold clothing all day, so I said whichever one makes the most money. The rest, as they say, is history," she says. "I am grateful to Sears Auto Center and their incredible managers for the kind of training that set me on the path to success." One thing that many women interviewed agreed on was the need for support within the industry. Over the last few years, help and encouragement has become more readily available. For instance, there are a number of Face- book groups devoted to women in the automotive and autobody trades. They provide a place to vent and get advice. Sometimes that's just what is needed most—a helpful word to get through a trying day or hard week, or just knowing you are not alone. There are also people like Jill Trotta, senior director of sales and industry advo- cacy at Repair Pal. When Milchein was struggling to find a job as a service man- ager, Trotta offered to help. "Within 24 hours of sending her my resume I had an interview that led to the job I currently have," Milchein says. "There is something about the automotive world that can make a woman feel terribly alone and like no one has her back. That day I felt like a part of the community." FINDING MENTORS As women become successful in our field, it provides the opportunity to support those just starting out. "If women are serious about the automo- tive industry as a career, find a successful woman to be a mentor," says Nanette Griffin, owner of Griffin Muffler & Brake Center. "My shop is AskPatty-Certified Female-Friendly. Visit Askpatty.com to find expert advisors in all areas of the auto industry." Many of the women talked about people—both men and women—who had mentored them over the years. Some say that connection is the reason they are still working in the auto shop industry. Ella Mokma is a mechanic and service adviser. On her worst day, she ran over a brand-new Corvette rim in front of the customer and screwed up an oil change and the car had to be towed. Her boss and coworkers just laughed at her. She wanted to quit right there. "My mentor told me I could prove them right by quitting or prove them wrong by staying. I persevered. That was three years ago," she says. "I recently did a large sus- pension job on a truck and the customer couldn't believe a girl did it. He wanted to speak to a man. So, we brought him to the manager (a female), then another manager (another female) and then the owner (another female.) His wife laughed so hard!" Just like men, some women shop owners and managers started out working for Alexandra Leigh Skwarto grew up around men who worked on cars. She got her associate's degree in Transportation Technology with a major in Auto Body. She visited 40 shops before she found one that would give her a chance. She was recently promoted to manage a new dealership. "My duties right now are everything from estimates, paperwork, bodywork, prep- ping, painting and everything else." INDUSTRY Women In the Shannon Lee Seavolt currently restores classic Porsches, but she spent 15 years in the colli- sion industry. She did the color-matching and paint repair on this 1955 Chevy. Women have a great sense of color detail, and it's one of the reasons they excel in the collision industry.

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