This article is part of an ongoing series to highlight and promote the technician career — demonstrating to kids, parents, and teachers how becoming a technician is a rewarding career path that can be lucrative and open the door to many opportunities within the industry.
Name: Melody H.
Location: Petrolia, Ontario, Canada
Job Title: Automotive Service Technician
Industry Experience: 15 years
How did you get started in the automotive industry?
Growing up, I was always with my dad. He was always working on our family farm and would let me help. When I went to high school, I chose to take a shop class. The course covered automotive, welding, and machine shop. I really liked automotive and welding and continued them both throughout high school. In my final year, I took a co-op course and was placed at the local Canadian Tire auto shop. This allowed me to see what it was like to work in automotive in real life. Nearing the end of high school, everyone was being pushed to apply to college. I realized automotive and welding were what I enjoyed the most. I took a tour of Fanshawe College and was quite impressed with their program and facilities. I applied, got accepted, and joined the program that fall. I took the Motive Power Technician – Automotive course, which is a two-year, full-time diploma program. I returned for a third year and completed the Motive Power Technician – Diesel course, as well. During that time, I started working at the local Toyota dealership as a lube tech and was signed up as an apprentice.
What is your favorite part of being a technician?
I love making things better for people. Having the ability to fix a problem on someone’s car is a great feeling. Whether it’s squealing brakes, streaky wipers, check engine light, or driveline vibration, I can take a car, figure out what’s wrong, remedy the situation, and give it back to the customer working the way it should.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone looking to enter the industry?
Try it! Try a high school shop class, co-op, or summer job as a lube tech. Give the career a chance to show you how rewarding it can be.
What has being a technician taught you the most?/ What skills has your career given you?
Critical thinking skills. Being able to take a problem, and work through it one step at a time. This type of logical, step-by-step process is something that can be applied to all kinds of things throughout life.
What do you wish more people, especially high schools, knew about the profession?
Being a mechanic is not just for the “lower” students. There has always been this idea that working on cars is what rebellious teenage boys do. Think of movies/shows like Grease, Footloose, Dukes of Hazzard, etc. The rebel who doesn’t like school is always tinkering with some old car. In reality, technicians are always thinking, learning new skills, and teaching others. As vehicles modernize and become more computer-controlled, technicians need to learn how all these systems work and how to diagnose them. Being a technician is not a low-skill, low education, or low income trade by any means.
If you knew a kid that wanted to go into the industry, but his/ her parents or teachers were telling them to go into a four-year college, what would you want to tell the parents?
I would tell them to check out what the trade is actually like because it is a skilled trade—Definitely a trade that will never go away. There will always be a need for transportation and a need for people to fix that transportation. A four-year college costs a lot of money. The news is full of stories about massive student debt students are not able to pay back. Four years of school has earned them a six-figure debt and jobs that are barely paying living wages. Trades, on the other hand, allow a person to start working and learn on the job while building their skill set. Schooling is broken up into manageable timeframes and is quite affordable. After four years, a person has on-the-job experience, is licensed in a trade, has built their skill sets, and has been earning an income the whole time.
What has your experience as a woman been like in this industry?
Challenging, in every aspect of being in a trade and simply being employed. I have had some great experiences. I love when women come into the shop. They may be nervous, but feel I am not going to scam them. They trust I am telling them the truth and not out to scam the “unknowing female.” I have had customers and coworkers who are really supportive of a female in the trades.
On the other hand, I have had customers and coworkers who are against the idea of a female in the trades. Even on Tik Tok, it’s apparent many guys still want women in the kitchen. It can be really difficult for a female to stick with this (or any) trade when hate is rampant in the workplace. Employers can be a huge influence over this. From hiring a female, to providing equal access, and discouraging/punishing bad attitudes. Fortunately, I am now with a company who is extremely supportive of female technicians, and it shows in every way.
The owner of the dealership I am at now showed me a magazine article he found. It was about the need to get women into the trades. In Canada, less than 2% of licensed automotive technicians are female. In my area, as far as I know, I am the only licensed female technician currently working in the trade. We currently have seven technicians in the shop—five licensed, one apprentice, and one lube technician. I am licensed, and our apprentice is also a female. Employers make a huge difference. When the owner showed me the article, he said he believes female technicians are the way of the future, and the direction he wants dealerships to head. Do you have any idea how comforting and encouraging that is? I can feel safe in this job and safe from hatred I’ve dealt with before. I know my manager will not tolerate anything less.