“Don’t let the Fear of Being One of the Few Women in Skilled Trades Change Your Mind.”
Wise words from Jessica Klein, a 2017 Lincoln Tech graduate. During Women’s History Month, Lincoln Tech is profiling women who have graduated from our transportation and skilled trades programs. We want to share their stories: what challenges they may have faced, how they turned to other women for support and guidance during their training, and what advice they would offer to women considering a career in the skilled trades, along with the auto and diesel industries.
Tapping Into Natural Talent to Help Focus on the Future.
Ever since she was a little girl, Jessica Klein knew her talents were leading her towards an artistic future. She began painting at a young age, following in her father’s and grandmother’s footsteps – both, she says, had artistic skills and encouraged Jessica to develop her own. Jessica entered the Collision Repair and Refinishing program at Lincoln Tech’s Melrose Park, IL campus and graduated in February of 2017. She was one of two female students in her class.
“I knew going into this field that females were going to be very outnumbered, but that didn’t change my mindset of pursuing an automotive career,” offers Jessica.
One part of the program that really appealed to Jessica was having the chance to put her artistic talent to work creating custom paint jobs. She even won a competition using her airbrushing skills to paint a bowling pin! “One day I want to own my own collision repair shop and spend as much time airbrushing cars as I can,” explains Jessica.
“This field is difficult, because the industry is always changing, so there is always something new to learn,” she adds. “It was challenging at times to try to change the male students’ minds about females doing hard work like body repair, welding and paint, but in the end, they started to see that I could do everything [that they could do]. Lincoln Tech provided me with the confidence I needed to begin my career in the automotive repair world.”
Women in Skilled Trades Serve as Mentors.
Jessica moved on after graduation to a position at a local collision center, working for a boss who is also female. “She doesn’t question my capabilities at all and will give me any job to do,” Jessica relates. “I also work alongside a talented body man who has never doubted my skills as a female tech, and pushes me to do better every day.”
Jessica’s advice for females considering a career in a male-dominated field? “Ignore the stereotypes and kick butt! I’ve been meeting more and more females in the industry and we all are striving to make it a more common thing to have women in the shops,” she says.
Women are in High Demand in the Skilled Trades.
During the 1930s and 40s, men went overseas to fight and women were called to duty on the home front. Remember Rosie the Riveter? Women like Rosie all across the country became welders, mechanics and electricians. They performed like true stars, doubling industrial production.
Job opportunities are expanding around the country in the skilled trades. There are more baby boomers retiring each year than there are skilled candidates entering these fields. This provides an opportunity for a specific group of workers overlooked in the past: women.
If Jessica’s story inspired you to pursue a career in Collision Repair & Refinishing or a different hands-on field, reach out to Lincoln Tech. We can help you put your potential to work!